The movie The Men who stare at Goats depicts various shady and amusing sides of American military world. A satirical depiction of CIA torture camps, private military contractors, alternate combat and advanced weapons development. The protagonist, a journalist named Wilton interviews a military veteran who tells him he was a member of the New Earth Army, a super-secret Army team of paranormals who were being trained as stealth weapons by the US army, inspired by reports that the Soviets were doing the same. In theory, they could spy at a distance, kill by the power of their sight alone and penetrate enemy lines in spirit, not in body. The movie flashes between the Iraq war and cold war period 20 years earlier. Some scenes in the movie are amusing, some scenes are hilarious but over all there is inconsistency with humor.  The movie lacks clarity, there is no explanation about how much of the movie is fiction how much of it is real but it makes it point, very loosely though unlike other military satirical movies like The Pentagon Wars, which is based on a real story about the development of Bradley Fighting Vehicle (one of the most expensive and longest weapon development project ever done by the US army).

US has the largest defense budget in the world. What do they spend it on? Not on collective policy, but on ideas and designs propagated by politicians and military officers for political and commercial purposes. This has led to many kinds of scandals and policy failure on multiple levels.

In 1983, US President Ronald Reagan, a strong critic of doctrine of MAS (Mutually Assured Destruction) doctrine, called upon the American scientists and engineers to develop a weapon system that would make nuclear weapons obsolete. Thus the ‘Star Wars’ program, a nickname for Strategic Defense Initiative, was born. A wide array of advanced weapon concepts, including lasers, particle beam weapons, ground and space based missile systems were studied, along with various concepts around sensor systems and high performance computers. The Star Wars Program was severely criticized for potentially reigniting the arms race, misuse of government funds, being more of a political tool and misleading the American public. Scientists working at the agency complained about "wasteful spending on research and development". In 1986, Aldric Saucier, a scientist working on the project, had accused the project of making false or misleading statements to Congress about the potential effectiveness of the proposed "Brilliant Pebbles" system in which space-based missile interceptors destroy incoming warheads by force of impact rather than by explosions. He also said that there had been diversions of funds and that wasteful spending on research and development had occurred.

By the early 1990s, with the Cold War ending and nuclear arsenals being rapidly reduced, political support for the ‘Star Wars Program’ collapsed. It was officially ended in 1993, when the Clinton Administration redirected the efforts specifically towards ballistic missiles and renamed the agency the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization. But in 2019, the space-based missile interceptor development program resumed after President Trump's signing of the National Defense Authorization Act. The program is currently managed by the Space Development Agency. Early development contracts were awarded to a private space corporation SpaceX which was now worth as much as $100 billion thanks in part to a booming business with the federal government.

After 9/11, during the war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan, US military began approaching the private sector for new kinds of technological development and security solutions, especially in the field of cyber warfare. Private sector players, billionaire investors, Tech company CEOs grabbed the opportunity. One particular tech company and its founder did it better than most. The data-mining firm Palantir Technologies, founded by Peter Thiel a venture capitalist and ardent Trump supporter, which according to its critics paved the way for surveillance capitalism, became a key player in Trump’s immigration and defense projects. The company is worth around $50 billion. Palantir had originally been an attempt to sell the U.S. government data-mining technology developed at PayPal (also founded by Peter Thiel).

The company was seeded by Peter Thiel and received funding from the CIA, cultivated a cloak-and-dagger reputation, encouraging reporters to write stories that presented its technology as an all-seeing orb, like the fictional Palantir in The Lord of the Rings, for which Peter Thiel had named it.

Inside Palantir there were questions about to what extent the technology worked. The company had struggled during President Barack Obama’s second term as enthusiasm for its offerings dimmed among intelligence agencies and big corporate customers. Palantir had hoped to compete for a contract with the U.S. Army, which was developing a new database system, but the Army seemed inclined to work with traditional defense contractors instead. Just before Election Day in 2016, a federal judge had ruled in a lawsuit brought by Palantir that the Army would have to rebid its database contract and consider Thiel’s company. The court order didn’t mean the Army would buy Palantir’s software, only that it would give it a “hard look,” as Hamish Hume, the company’s lawyer on the case, put it. During a meeting at Trump Tower, Alex Karp, CEO of Palantir, promised Trump that Palantir could “help bolster national security and reduce waste.”

Ultimately US Army held a bake-off between Palantir and Raytheon, Palantir’s main competitor, in the bidding on the Army deal for the disputed contract, in which each company was asked to build a prototype system and present it to a panel of soldiers. It was exactly the kind of contest Palantir had called for in a lawsuit a few years prior. Some Palantir insiders wondered if the Pentagon’s leadership had been convinced on the merits—Palantir’s software had indeed improved a lot over the previous few years—or if political pressure had been brought to bear by Peter Thiel and his political allies. Either way, in early 2019, the Army announced that Palantir had won outright: The company would get its largest contract ever, worth $800 million or more. The win created momentum, with the company suddenly in the hunt for more Pentagon business.

In 2019, Palantir took over $40 million a year in contracts for Project Maven, a Defense Department effort to use artificial intelligence software to analyze drone footage. That happened despite Palantir’s limited experience in the kind of image-recognition software that Maven used to identify targets—and despite concerns from a government official expressed in an anonymous memo sent to military brass, and first reported by the New York Times, that the company had received preferential treatment in landing the contract. There would be another huge Army contract, announced in December, worth as much as $440 million over four years, plus $10 million from Trump’s brand-new military branch, the Space Force, and $80 million from the Navy. And Palantir ignored the objections of its own employees and immigration activists, renewing its contract with Trump’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency for another $50 million or so.

With the important parts US defense policy being decided by the preferences of US Presidents and their financial supporters, maybe one day Pentagon might produce solar powered tanks and green missiles if there is an environment-conscious president in the White House.

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