War Dogs is a very entertaining film that provides a mostly glamorous perspective of the military industrial complex that has become a massive expenditure for the US government. While the film tells the story of two young men that start off fulfilling contracts for supplies for the military, it isn’t until later in the film that the structure and workings of the government’s privatized military supply sourcing becomes better explained. While War Dogs does offer the audience various action scenes and excitement about winning contract bids to make big profits, there is a more subtle explanation of how that system works. This is explained over the course of multiple scenes but mainly when Efraim asks David to work for him and explains what contracts to look for and why the government uses that particular system. Essentially the government has a website that it uses to solicit supplies for the military. The solicitations can range from requests for tanks, to small arms, to ammunition. With the solicitations posted on the website, various companies and corporations bid to fulfill the contract with the lowest cost. The entity with the lowest priced bid will generally win the contract and will enter into an agreement with the military to provide those supplies for the military within a certain time frame. Efraim points out that the large corporations generally stick to competing for the larger contracts and the smaller solicitations get ignored. Efraim aims to fulfill these smaller neglected solicitations because they tend to be much easier to win. He refers to them as crumbs and says he lives off of the crumbs. The massive final solicitation that brings Efraim and David down is one to supply the Afghani army with 7.62x39mm ammunition. The source they have exclusive access to is an Eastern European country with warehouses full of Soviet era weapons and ammunition left over from the Cold War. This seems to be the only source in the world for the amount of AK-47 ammunition needed for the contract. It turns out that the ammunition is manufactured in China rather than the former USSR and is subject to sanctions which prevent its purchase by the US government. Rather than lose the $300 million contract, Efraim and David decide to repackage the ammunition into plastic bags and cardboard boxes that do not have the ‘Made In China’ markings in order to circumvent the legal issues of its purchase. Many times it is mentioned that the government would rather look the other way on the legal issues of the origin of the ammunition, implying that the military would rather get a good price on the deal that abide by the restrictions of the sanction as long as they could have plausible deniability. This turns out not to be the case and the government launches an investigation after they are tipped off about the sanction violation. Efraim and David are then arrested and the contract is terminated.
My reaction to this film was that it was an entertaining and indirect way of pointing out the way that the military operates in terms of how it acquires its supplies and the big business involved. War Dogs was done in a way similar to the directors other films with depicting action along with some “bro fantasy” (Bahr, 2016). It did have a similar feel to The Hangover with the same fun partying scenes. However I did feel that it used comedy to veil some exposure of the military industrial complex and how that whole system operates. I’ll admit that despite my political believes and opposition to how that system operates, War Dogs did have me wondering how I could start getting into some of the smaller contracts on that website. My father’s company has bid on and fulfilled contracts for the government using the same system; however it was not related to arms or ammunitions. The film did make me feel that it is probably an issue that war is such a big business and that individuals and corporations make so much money from wars that don’t end.
Looking at how the film exposes how military supply and the military industrial complex works, it seems obvious that there are both pros and cons to this system. At the very least it means that the government opens the bidding up publically so that people can see what it is purchasing and so that others besides massive corporations can compete. While there are positive effects of private supplying for the military such as lower cost and more innovation, it seems alarming that there is so much money in war. The film did a lot to point out how much money could be made by supplying militaries in the never ending conflicts. I suspect this may have much to do with why the conflicts are never ending. It also concerns me how these corporations supply other militaries that have been engaged in long lived conflicts, perpetuating the conflicts further. This film plays perfectly into the idea of the Death-State. While the military machine of fascism has passed the even more potent global system of a global economic war-machine has risen to power (Holland, 2011). This is essentially what War Dogs describes as the military industrial complex. The mega corporations that Efraim and David initially couldn’t compete with are that complex. They later became part of that complex. Additionally the film highlighted the importance of the global economy in that system. The United States wanted to purchase ammunition for the Afghani army from Eastern Europe that was instead manufactured in China. Globalization is a substantial difference in today’s government versus the nationalist focus of the fascists.
Lindsey Bahr (2016)
Nomad Citizenship by Eugene W. Holland (2011)