Weapons and "knowledge workers" for the east coast of the United States

(To Leonardo Chiti)

In the first televised confrontation with Hillary Clinton as part of the Democratic Party primaries campaign ahead of the November 2016 presidential election, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (74 years, photo below) declared his opposition to the passing of a law introducing restrictions on the trade in firearms. According to Sanders, the demands that underlie the will to limit the sacrosanct right of every American citizen to possess a weapon, they are an expression of the social strata of the big cities and in particular of the economic and intellectual elite, and of those who live in the quiet and orderly suburbs of metropolitan areas, for this reason it can not breach that part of the population that resides in the smaller centers, in the South or in the rural areas, or in that deep America (as an example Sanders cited Wyoming), typical of the US "corpaccione".

Even if the chances of obtaining the Democratic nomination for the presidential elections were considered almost immediately null and void (except for sensational surprises like it was for George McGovern, then defeated by Nixon, in 1972), to make certain statements interesting are the biography and the political profile of the character, since the personal story of Sanders does not show particular affinity with the National Rifle Association, the famous lobby of US arms manufacturers.

Representative of Vermont at the 1988 Congress, then senator in the 2006, in the 60 years he played in the "League of Young Socialists", in the civil rights movement and he sided against the Vietnam war, he is a supporter of a program at teaches social justice: raising the minimum wage, health coverage for all, reforming the system of financing the policy so as to limit the influence in the Congress of large private interests, taxation of the speculative activities of Wall Street and the now inevitable fight against climate changes.

Sanders' position in favor of the free sale and possession of weapons, speaks volumes about how certain customs and traditions are widespread in the US social stratification, even in the region that can boast the presence of New York, the epicenter of that "Liberal" America is so proud of its enlightened and progressive orientation.

Vermont is located in the Northeast and together with Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut form New England. The area with the highest urbanization of the east coast is represented by the megacity that extends for over 600 km from New Hampshire to Virginia and which includes cities such as Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington and New York.

As everyone knows, even though Wall Street has been in the eye of the storm due to the subprime mortgage crisis, the Big Apple remains the financial and banking capital of the world, in fact here is the seat of giants such as JP Morgan Chase and Citygroup but also of the main American (and global) insurance groups, such as Metlife and American International Group. In New York, important media industry groups have their headquarters, both in terms of journalistic publishing (although less papery) such as the New York Times, and radio and television with channels such as CBS and NBC.

Greenwich Village is an important "cultural district", a reference point for intellectuals of different genres and various backgrounds, from the beat generation in the 50 years at Woody Allen. And finally New York is above all the capital of lawyers (a category of which Hillary Clinton is a prominent member), so much to consider Silvia Sciorilli Borrelli on "The 24 hours" 08 April 2012, a fortune the fact that : on the island of Manhattan the buildings grow in height, otherwise it would be difficult to contain the headquarters of each of these giants within a few square kilometers ("Lawyers in New York, after the golden age").

Apart from some shuffling from year to year, the top 100 places related to business law firms in the USA are occupied by the usual suspects: Watchell, Crovath, Sullivan & Cromwell, Skadden (to give an idea, he sponsored Bill Clinton in the Paula case Jones, the reporter who accused the then president of sexual harassment dating back to his time as governor of Arkansas), Davis Polk, Simpson Thatcher, Debervoise & Plimpton, to name a few in the top ten based in New York.

In this environment of journalists, TV presenters, actors, intellectuals of all sorts, lawyers, insurers and assault brokers - all social figures that according to the expression coined by Peter Drucker could be defined as "knowledge workers" - one of the processing centers (as you will see another fertile area for this type of setting is the Californian West Coast), theories about post-industrial society and post-modern lifestyle.

However, if you move away from Wall Street and the luxury shops of Fifth Avenue and look around, there are other aspects that characterize the social reality of the Atlantic coast with stars and stripes, an area where there is a significant representation of the industrial sector that still plays a leading role among the factors that form the concrete force of what currently remains the world's first power, despite the difficulties and strategic uncertainties that emerged in foreign policy.

At the new race, announced in the 2013, for the presidential helicopter was presented only Sikorsky - whose acquisition by Lockheed-Martin was announced in the summer 2015 - and in the Congress the main sponsor of the historic supplier of the House Bianca was Democrat Senator Chuck Schumer (pictured below) of the state of New York. In one of the auditions dedicated to this contract the Arizona senator John McCain (as you remember Republican candidate for the presidential election of 2008) has maliciously raised a question that sounds like this: the sudden enthusiasm of Schumer for the award of the contract to Sikorsky will it be due to the fact that most of the production for this contract will be carried out in its electoral district?

The allusion is to the plants of AAG (Associated Aircraft Group Inc.), a subsidiary of Sikorsky that deals with the integration of helicopters and performs services such as maintenance, testing and testing of flight systems, based in Wappingers Falls, New York .

Sikorsky's headquarter is located in Stratford, Connecticut, as well as the head office of its former parent company, United Technologies (45 ° among US companies in the Fortune 500 of the 2015), located in Hartford.

In the same state there are the factories of that district of the light weapons of the North-East whose protagonists should not need particular presentations since, to resume the words reported in the respective company sites, these are the marks of the "weapons that have conquered the West ".

The main centers of this gunbelt of ancient tradition are connected by the most important motorway artery of the region which is a sort of director of the US light weapons district. From north to south the Interstate 91 runs from Derby Line, in Vermont, along the western part of New England to finish near New Haven (Connecticut), one of the major cities along the route along with Springfield (Massachusetts) and Hartford.

In New Haven is the head office of the Winchester Repeating Arms, while the Colt's Manufacturing Company is in Hartford. Founded in the mid-nineteenth century by Oliver Winchester and Samuel Colt respectively, for the two historic and prestigious brands there have been difficult moments, given that the myth is not sufficient in itself to ward off corporate crises. Winchester is still in business after the 2006 seemed to be on the verge of closure, and Colt in mid-June requested to access the extraordinary administration procedure provided by the Chapter 11 (a sort of assisted bankruptcy) with the intention of restructure in the perspective of a revival.

Not far away, in Springfield, are the plants of Smith & Wesson, founded in 1852 (with the initial name "Volcanic Repeating Arms Company", due to the nickname given to the gun it produced), by Horace Smith and Daniel B. Wesson . At present, industry experts credit Smith & Wesson as the world's largest producer of small arms, an industrial branch in which the United States confirms itself as the main importer and exporter at the same time (closely followed by Italian manufacturers).

Moving a little further south, in the state of Maryland, it is possible to come across the Italian contribution to the US district of small arms represented by an important example of Italian excellence in fine mechanics.

In the town of Accokeek is located the Beretta plant created to satisfy the American orders, in particular following the awarding, in the 1985, by the Gardone Val Trompia company, of the tender for the supply to the American armed forces of a new side weapon in place of the Colt 1911 A1. Overall it was a supply of just under 500.000 guns to Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.

Of course the decision to open this production plant, which will become fully operational by the 1988, should also be read in order to mute the strong opposition raised by the lobby of US arms manufacturers to the announcement of the Department of Defense of the choice made in favor of the Beretta 92 series renamed then M9.

Returning to the great weapon systems, also in Maryland, in Bethesda, is the headquarters of Lockheed-Martin that occupies the 64 place of the Fortune 500 ranking of the 2015 for US companies. The group is very well known but just to mention some productions we can mention: the C-130 Hercules tactical transport aircraft which have been developed different variants, from combat and tactical support for the ground troops designated AC-130 (flying gunship) , from refueling in flight (KC-130); the C-5 Galaxy four-engine strategic transport; the F-22 Raptor air superiority fighter and, last but certainly the most talked about, the Joint Strike Fighter / F-35 Combat Attack Hunting.

The headquarters of Raytheon, a giant of missile and military electronics, is in Waltham, Massachusetts. The production offer of this company covers all the dimensions of use in the operating theater (land, sea and sky), from large weapon systems to small arms (thermal visors, advanced pointing systems for shooting, etc.).

Among the main products of the range we can mention: the Joint Strike Missile for F-35 realized in collaboration with the Norwegian Kongsberg, the air-air missiles series AIM-9X Sidewinder, AIM-7 Sparrow with relative evolution terrestrial and naval (Evolved Seasparrow Missile), AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM). The latter (combat-proven) have been integrated into a wide range of weapon systems: F-15, F-16, F / A-18, Typhoon, Gripen, Tornado and Joint Strike Fighter.

The Tomahawk cruise missile (formerly General Dynamics) is part of the Raytheon family, and the SM-3, SM-6 and Patriot systems can be mentioned in the missile defense, while laser-guided bombs are included in guided munitions Paveway and the Small Diameter Bomb. In the naval armament the Waltham group boasts the presence of the MK-48 Torpedo 6 Advanced Torpedo and MK-54 Lightweight Torpedo torpedoes, and the on-board weapon system, Phalanx, for close-range point defense CIWS (Close-In Weapon Systems).

In Falls Church, Virginia, General Dynamics is based for the construction of the MBT tanks (Main Battle Tank) Abrams A1M1 / A2M3, which entered service at the American armored cavalry in the early '80, and for the initial development of the F-16 fighter (from the 1993 a Lockheed-Martin project), which won the race in January 1975.

General Dynamics can also boast important productions for naval forces such as the missile destroyer (guided missile destroyer) DDG-51 Arleigh Burke, built on its BIW works (Bath Iron Works, acquired in 1995) in Bath, on the coasts of Maine. The units of the DDG-1000 stealth destroyer class Zumwalt are also built here, a contract for which General Dynamics obtained its participation after the initial assignment of the program to Northrop-Grumman.

With this last General Dynamics operates in a plurality of industrial teams that constitute a sort of "competitive collaboration" (in the jargon of international relations it would define an opposing-allied relationship). Examples are the same DDG-51 and submarines of the Virginia class, a program of which GD is prime contractor through its subsidiary Electric Boat based in Groton, Connecticut.

Also in Virginia, in Newport News, is the Huntington headquarters Ingalls Industry (HII), the leading US shipbuilder and supplier of maintenance services, after-sales logistics assistance and operational adjustment of the units built for naval forces both surface that submarine.

In particular, the Virginia plants are headed by the NNS (Newport News Shipbuilding), whose name is linked to the main American naval productions for almost 130 years. In the 2001 the NNS was acquired by Northrop-Grumman to become a division of the Huntington Ingalls Industry from the 2011, which in turn was issued by Northrop.

On the NNS shipyards, the Ford class aircraft carriers are built, with the first-in-class CVN-78 (left-hand photo) and the second John F. Kennedy CVN-79 unit being launched. the submarines of the Virginia class. The group boasts the supremacy of Virginia's leading industrial employer.

To conclude this overview of the social cross section of the US east coast, we need to consider another piece. Although the district icon of technological innovation is undoubtedly represented by the Californian Silicon Valley, the Atlantic area presents an important concentration of training structures adequate to support an area with high innovative intensity such as the defense industry.

In fact, the "military world", understood both as armed forces and in its economic-industrial component, while possessing its own recruitment and training channels, has every interest in being able to draw from a social basin characterized by the highest possible educational level .

On the island of Manhattan is the headquarters of Columbia University (founded in 1754), constantly among the top positions in the world ranking of the most prestigious universities, it is second only to Harvard for the number of Nobel prizes awarded in the scientific disciplines. The University of Princeton (1746) is located in New Jersey, among which the main training facilities include the Aerospace and Mechanical Sciences Department.

The Yale University (1701) is located in New Haven and is commonly considered the advanced tip for legal education. The metropolitan area of ​​Boston is most likely to have the highest high-profile formative density: Cambridge has its headquarters the Harvard University (1636) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1861).

Lastly, in Waltham, in the "fiefdom" of Raytheon, 15 kilometers west of Boston, is the Brandeis University, of more recent foundation (1948) and smaller than other American universities but still among the most popular of the United States for its research centers.

Just to give a general idea about the links between certain environments, General David Petraeus holds a Ph.D. (Ph.D.) from the University of Princeton, obtained with a thesis entitled: "The teachings of Vietnam for the armed forces American. " At Harvard, from 1963, he worked as an associate researcher David Galula (1919-1968), a former French army officer, a veteran of Algeria and author of "Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice".

Petraeus has always declared his admiration for Galula and considers himself a disciple of his having drawn inspiration from the writings of the former French officer who had the opportunity to put into practice the teachings in his period of command of the US forces and the international contingent in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In homage to what he considers the "von Clausewitz of the counterinsurgency" and his teacher, Petraeus wrote the preface of the French edition of the text of Galula, "Contre-insurrection. Théorie et pratique ", published in the 2008.

Regardless of the fact that in principle we can also agree with the need to try to stem the (legal) spread of firearms through greater control over buyers, in the US the vocation to possess weapons can not be reduced to the sole influence of the industry lobby (although this is certainly a real fact), because it has its roots in the history of US formation.

First of all, we can not neglect an aspect that applies to most of the states that have a past as a colony: the US is born "militia", the figure of the citizen in arms was the basic unit of the fighting forces in the struggle for independence against England. Moreover, still on the eve of the Civil War, the social structure underlying the "deep America" ​​mentality was a characteristic trait of both sides.

Despite the widespread perception of the North as an industrial society opposed to the agricultural South, in the 1860 almost three quarters of the inhabitants of the Union lived in small villages or farms (there were over a million in the North alone); even in the Northeast, the cradle of American industry, the urban population was a minority (see Reid Mitchell, "The American Civil War", the Mill, 2003).

In the process of colonization of the West, this type of mentality will accompany the settlers by marrying with the epic of the "conquest of the West" and strengthening to become one with the romantic representations of the tradition of frontier life that literature (books and comics), the cinema and the small screen will raise to myth.

In this context, the image of the citizen-militia who has the duty to defend the country and the right to protect himself, his family and private property, has deeply rooted in the forma mentis of the average American.

However, even if we want to set the question on the level of pure and simple economic interest, from what we have seen, it is clear that in "singing" to the post-industrial and post-modern ideologies, "knowledge workers" tend to lose sight of the real composition of the social fabric in which they are immersed. In some cases this attitude leads them to forget with a little too much ease how much part of their lifestyle, and more generally of the so-called "American way of life", still depends (directly or indirectly) on the industrial defense sector.

(photo: US DoD / General Dynamics Corporation / Huntington Ingalls Industries / web)