Star-Wise Pie

The military-industrial complex is alive and well in the United States. Experts estimate that President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative program (SDI), better known as Star Wars, will spend upwards of $1 trillion to research and build a space shield impregnable to nuclear attack.

Top corporations are heroically lending a hand. For a price, of course. Boeing gets $131 million, TRW $57 million, and Lockheed $33 million for Star Wars projects this year. AT&T eagerly offered to develop a lightning-quick battle-management computer system but, to its great disappointment, was turned down. "No competitive high-tech company can afford not to be a part of SDI," says Wolfgang Demisch, an analyst at the First Boston investment firm.

To describe the functioning of SDI, the term "military-industrial complex" is apt but incomplete. According to India's Vedic literature, human society has four principal classes: the military class, the industrial or business class, the intellectual class, and the worker class. Lord Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, created these four classes when He created human society, so in analyzing any social phenomenon we should look for all four. In the social body, the intellectual class is the head, the military class the arms. The business class is the stomach of society, nourishing the social body by putting bread on the table. And the worker class acts as the legs of the social body, assisting the other three classes. "Military-industrial" indicates only the arms and the stomach. Aren't the legs and head important too?

Sure enough, to make the Star Wars dream come true, SDI is counting heavily on the intellectual community for scientific breakthroughs. Thus high-tech corporations aren't alone in scurrying for SDI dollars. Scientists from Carnegie-Mellon and eight other institutions have landed a $9 million SDI contract, and a consortium of five universities has accepted $19 million to develop a power system for space weapons. The intellectual community also has its finger in the Star Wars pie-in-the-sky.

The worker class too has vested interests. It will directly benefit from the billions of dollars pumped into the industries for which it works. An old story repeats itself: It was the heavy demands on U.S. industry made by the U.S. and Allied armed forces during World War II that finally pulled the U.S. economy out of the Great Depression, sent millions of workers back to work, and prompted Charles E. Wilson, head of General Electric, to comment in 1944 that what the country needed was "a permanent war economy." Not to disappoint Mr. Wilson, Star Wars continues the tradition.

Petitions are circulating at many university campuses to block Star Wars research. Fifty-three physics professors at the University of Illinois have signed a statement condemning the SDI program as "deeply misguided, dangerous, and enormously expensive" and pointing out that space weapons research will only escalate the arms race.

Despite this warning from a part of the "head"—the intellectual class—the social body is charging forward into Star Wars. Much of the intellectual class has fallen for the lure of research contracts and is therefore encouraging, not warning against, space research. "The only ones who complain about money being thrown around are those who are not in the way of the money," says astrophysicist James Jonson, an SDI staff member. Like businessmen and corporations, many professors and universities believe that the first purpose of life is to put more bread on the table, and that they must therefore compete for SDI grants to survive. The social body appears to be quite a goon: a big stomach and hardly any brains.

The Vedic literature urges the intellectual community to research the possibilities of spiritual advancement through self-realization and devotional service to the Absolute Truth, Lord Krsna, and to teach the principles of self-realization to society at large. With the consciousness of all four social orders thus directed up toward spiritual objectives, rather than down toward the stomach, the present goony social body will tend to be less gluttonous over the Star-Wars pie and more inclined toward clear-headed planning for our national security.