An Essay Contest for University Students on Reining in America’s Military Industrial Complex

Congratulations to our winner of the 2023 Quincy Institute Essay Contest, Martin Makaryan! His essay, Why the American people should push for peace, answered the prompt by citing the state of affairs in modern American Militarism, expertly analyzing the facts, and calling for “a new generation of Americans [to] step in to seize the new chance for peace before it is too late” by democratizing foreign policy.

Martin will be entering his first year for his Masters at Johns Hopkins’ Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies this fall.

Congratulations, as well, to our honorable mentions:

  • James Fisher, a PhD Candidate for African History at Ohio University
  • Benjamin V. Allison, a PhD Candidate in History and Graduate Fellow at the Clements Center for National Security at the University of Texas at Austin
  • John Macaulay, a BA Student of International Relations at University of California, Davis


The Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft invites students to write an essay for the ages — making the case for why Congress and the executive branch should curb exorbitant spending for warmaking, and why the average American should care about the ballooning defense budget.

The 20 year long war in Afghanistan ended, but instead of the war budget going down, it went up – dramatically – as new threats were hyped. This isn’t a new phenomenon; since the 1950s, policymakers and presidents have noted that an interlocking group of interests – the military industrial complex – is always on the prowl for a justification to keep the weapons lines humming and the taxpayer money flowing.  

Former President and General Dwight D. Eisenhower was one of the most outspoken critics of this phenomenon. On April 16, 1953, early in his presidency he gave a speech called the “Chance for Peace,” in which he compared and castigated the lavish expenditures made on weapons versus the unmet needs of average Americans. He challenged the United States and the USSR to think differently and free themselves from this wasteful expenditure, which he called “a cross of iron.” 

Seventy years later, our war budget of $858 billion is one of the highest since World War II, higher than the peaks of the Korean or Vietnam Wars or the height of the Cold War. It is more than twice what China spends on its military forces, even after pending increases on the part of Beijing are taken into account.   

Why should your peers care?  What should you and they do about it? 

Write your persuasive manifesto in 850 – 1200 words. 

Submission is due by May 21. Strong essays will advance a clear perspective on the issue, supported by strong argumentation, knowledge of the subject matter, good writing (including structure and style), and originality. Sources should be hyperlinked, rather than footnoted, when possible. Complete rules are at the bottom of the page.

The winner will receive $500, publication in Responsible Statecraft, and a Zoom call with Andrew Bacevich, a former soldier turned historian and prolific author, who co-founded the Quincy Institute and serves as the chair of its board. 

Summary Details

  • Undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students who are or will be attending institutions in the United States in 2023 are eligible to participate. (This includes both college students who will graduate in 2023 and high school seniors or others who currently plan to attend a U.S. college at any point in 2023).
  • Submissions will open April 17, 2023 at 9 AM EST and close May 21, 2023, at midnight EST.
  • Submit your essay using either .doc or .docx formatting. Please use your .edu email address.
  • The final winner and any honorable mentions will be announced July 1, 2023.
  • The winning essay will be promoted on social media by both Responsible Statecraft and the Quincy Institute.
  • First prize (one): $500, publication in Responsible Statecraft, and a Zoom call with Andrew Bacevich.