The Military-Industrial Complex
A military-industrial complex refers to a huge interlocking network of governmental agencies,
industrial corporations, and research institutes, working together to supply a nation’s military
military-industrial complex was a response to the growing importance of technology (nuclear
weapons, electronics, and others) and of logistics in Cold War military planning. Because of the
domestic political clout of these actors, the complex was a powerful influence on foreign policy
in both the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
States at war have long harnessed their economic and technological might for the war effort. But
during the Cold War, military procurement occurred on a massive scale in “peacetime,” as the
superpowers raced to develop new high-technology weapons.
The complex encompasses a variety of constituencies, each of which has an interest in military
spending. Corporations that produce goods for the military profit from government contracts.
Many domestic actors seek to influence public opinion—the range of views on foreign policy
issues held by the citizens of a state. Public opinion has greater influence on foreign policy in
democracies than in authoritarian governments.
But even dictators must pay attention to what citizens think. No government can rule by force
alone: it needs legitimacy to survive. It must persuade people to accept (if not to like) its policies,
because in the end, policies are carried out by ordinary people—soldiers, workers, and
Because of the need for public support, even authoritarian governments spend great effort on
propaganda—the public promotion of their official line—to win support for foreign policies.
In many countries, the state owns or controls major mass media
Journalists serve as the gatekeepers of information passing from foreign policy elites to the
The media and government often conflict because of the traditional role of the press as a
watchdog and critic of government actions and powers.
Foreign policy decision makers also rely on the media for information about foreign affairs.
Yet the media also depend on government for information; the size and resources of the foreign
policy bureaucracies dwarf those of the press.
These advantages give the ggovernment great power to manipulate journalists by feeding them
information in order to shape the news and influence public opinion. Government decision makers can create
dramatic stories in foreign relations—through summit meetings, crises, actions, and so forth.
Bureaucrats can also leak secret information to the press in order to support their own point of
view and win bureaucratic battles.
Finally, the military and the press have a running battle about journalists’ access to military
operations, but both
sides gained from the open access given to journalists “embedded” with U.S. forces in Iraq in
In democracies, where governments must stand for election, an unpopular war can force a leader
or party from office
Occasionally a foreign policy issue is decided directly by a referendum of the entire citizenry
Even in the most open democracies, states do not merely respond to public opinion. Decision
makers enjoy some autonomy to make their own choices, and they are pulled in various
directions by bureaucracies and interest groups, whose views often conflict with the direction
favored by public opinion at large.
Furthermore, public opinion is seldom unified on any policy, and sophisticated polling can show
that particular segments of the population
Public opinion varies considerably over time on many foreign policy issues. States use
propaganda (in dictatorships) or try to manipulate the media (in democracies) to keep public
opinion from diverging too much from state policies.
In democracies, public opinion generally has less effect on foreign policy than on domestic
policy. National leaders traditionally have additional latitude to make decisions in the
The attentive public in a democracy is the minority of the population that stays informed about
This segment varies somewhat from one issue to another, but there is also a core of people who
care in general about foreign affairs and follow them closely. The most active members of the
attentive public on foreign affairs constitute a foreign policy elite—people with power and
influence who affect foreign policy.
This elite includes people within governments as well as outsiders such as businesspeople,
journalists, lobbyists, and professors of political science. differ considerably from those of the
general population, and
sometimes from those of the government as well
Governments sometimes adopt foreign policies for the specific purpose of generating public
approval and hence gaining domestic legitimacy.27 This is the case when a government undertakes a war or foreign military intervention at a time of domestic difficulty, to distract
attention and gain public support—taking advanta