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[Letter from Washington]

The Military-Industrial Virus

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For a country that spends such vast sums on its national security apparatus—many times more than the enemies that supposedly threaten it do—the United States has a strangely invisible military establishment. Military bases tend to be located far from major population centers. The Air Force’s vast missile fields, for instance, are hidden away in the plains of the northern Midwest. It is rare to see service uniforms on the streets of major cities, even Washington. Donald Trump did dream of holding a “beautiful” military parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, complete with “a lot of planes going over and a lot of military might,” but the Pentagon nixed the scheme by putting out word that the extravaganza would cost $92 million. The estimate was surely inflated—­it was four times greater, in real dollars, than the price tag for the 1991 Gulf War victory parade—­suggesting that the military prefers a lower profile. It often takes an informed eye to appreciate signs of defense dollars at work, such as the office parks abutting Route 28 south of Dulles Airport, heavily populated with innocuously titled military and intelligence firms.

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is the Washington editor of Harper’s Magazine and the author, most recently, of Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins.

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