The War Machine

Andrew J. Bacevich:
"The Tyranny of Defense"
(January/February 2011)

Crooked contractors, radical overspending, and other stories of the military-industrial complex from the Atlantic archives.

Atomic War or Peace (November 1947)
By Albert Einstein
"I am not saying that the United States should not manufacture and stockpile the bomb," the great physicist wrote just two years after Hiroshima. "But deterrence should be the only purpose of the stockpile of bombs."

An Open Letter to President Kennedy (January 1961)
By William R. Matthews
In a plea to America's newly elected leader, the author insisted that abating the expensive arms race would free up funds to make the whole world more productive.

The Steep Bill for Vietnam (September 1972)
By David Halberstam
Lyndon Johnson's administration intentionally lowballed the cost of the war, hoping to keep the details as secret as possible. In response, the American economy went haywire.

The Spend-Up (July 1986)
By James Fallows
When the Reagan Administration came to Washington, it promised to repair a "decade of neglect" in military spending. Instead, Fallows argued, our military arsenal became more expensive but not larger.

The Rush to Deploy SDI (April 1988)
By Charles E. Bennett
The author argued that Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative was a misguided effort--defying scientific opinion, bypassing internal Pentagon review procedures, stalling Congress, and pressuring the military.

The American Way of War (June 2002)
By Michael Kelly
With its 12 nuclear aircraft-carrier battle groups, its stealth bombers, its cruise missiles, and its generations-ahead fleet of warplanes, wrote Kelly, the United States stands alone in the world and in history.

Uncle Sam Buys an Airplane (June 2002)
By James Fallows
How Lockheed Martin beat Boeing for the biggest military contract in history--and how that one contract could change the way the military builds and pays for its weapons.

America's Elegant Decline (November 2007)
By Robert D. Kaplan
Our Navy is stretched thin, Kaplan wrote, and the way we manage dwindling naval resources will go a long way toward determining our future standing in the world.

The Last Ace (March 2009)
By Mark Bowden
The U.S. government, wrote Bowden, faces a difficult decision: Should it stock the Air Force with Boeing's expensive, cutting-edge F‑22? Or should it plunge America back to a time when the cost of air supremacy was paid in the blood of ace pilots?