The Arms Industry


A response to Ariovistus' comments on the Minekey forum.

(Before I start, just a quick apology for having to post this on an outside website. It's just that these points have almost reached the length of a full essay, and the 500-character and 9-comments-in-a-row limits make it impossible for me to put it in the correct thread. If Ariovistus has an equally long reply and wishes to post it via an outside website as well, I will certainly have no objections.)

I'm afraid, Ario, that the argument you are offering up here is deeply flawed.
Starting with the issue of critical thinking, the fact that your emotions are distorting your own views is very evident here, for three reasons;-
Firstly, you attack the op as being 'anti-American', when it in fact speaks of arms-producing Western countries in general; the UK is another that is cited. There is a real overtone of paranoid siege-mentality running through your words from start to finish.
Secondly, you resort to labelling, in this case with a variant of the "trendy Liberal" jibe that conservatives and militarists currently usie with some regularity to attack opponents; "curant and cool anti-American sentiment".  In truth, if you were to study the op  in the cold light of day, you would notice that it's not really criticising anyone - I went to some pains to point out that political shenanigans by the West are not being implied - it's simply highlighting an issue of national self-interest.
Thirdly, in referring to the USA, you use the word "we" on a number of occasions, glaringly highlighting that you have a partisan bias, if not a vested interest.
Therefore, the chances of your thinking being impartial enough to be considered more critical than my own are very slim indeed.
As for the figures you have tried to discredit the op with, they have been under-stated, interpreted selectively, and deliberately simplified. To use as an example, the official figures - which is to say the figures from sales actually sanctioned by the US Government (Foreign Military Sales or FMS) - for the year 2007, US arms exports valued at $17.2 billion were sold to developing nations alone.  That's just developing nations; these figures don't take into account sales to First World nations, which will up the total by roughly 50% in most years. It's a ballpark figure, but we can say conservatively that it'd make it around $25 billion for 2007. Euphemising that as "a few billion" smacks of spin-doctoring.
But more pertinently, these are only Government-to-Government deals. The private sales by Corporations such as Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman and that are not officially sanctioned by the US Government (and are not just sold to foreign Governments) are also not included in the figures, and run into many billions more every year.
Furthermore, these are figures only for CONVENTIONAL weapons. It doesn't take into account occasional sales of nuclear arms, which are far more expensive. For instance, Britain is currently in the process of, quite pointlessly, renewing Trident, which will earn the USA at least 20 billion extra, possibly as much as 40 billion. And notice that those figures are in POUNDS, not dollars.
You also paint the issue as entirely a matter of export figures, and  fail to take into account the multi-layered domestic effect of a $1 trillion-plus economy dedicating over 4% of its GNP to military spending. If the world ceased to be war-like, manufacture of weapons would eventually go into a sharp decline as there would be no demand for them. That includes a large reduction in requirements from America's native armed forces, which would probably have to be down-sized themselves sooner or later. This would not just lead to a cut in exports, but also to vast unemployment in the US arms industry and in its armed forces. We're probably talking upwards of ten million extra unemployed people in the USA alone.
It would be practically the death of major native manufacturing in the USA in fact. As so much other manufacturing industry in the USA is owned by other countries, and so many other consumables are imported from elsewhere, arms are pretty much the only major manufacturing industry that is still natively-run. The loss of a "few billion" in exports is therefore pretty serious when trade deficits are already so wide.
Even where arms are being "given away" to allies, the manufacture of the weapons still creates a lot of work that reduces unemployment. This even holds true with spending trillions on the war with Iraq, your claim of which actually underlines the point of this op rather than contradicting it. All the huge military resources expended there had to be manufactured, and afterwards replaced. Again, it creates work and staves off unemployment, stimulating the economy.  (There is even a school of economic thought that argues that the USA deliberately seeks out wars so that it can use up its arms stockpiles and so generate new business for the manufacturers. I don't buy this, as there is no evidence at all of wars being 'engineered' for this reason, but it does make coherent sense purely as an economic theory.) Conquering Iraq may have cost well over a trillion, and is projected to have passed the 2 trillion mark before the withdrawal is completed, but this has benefited arms manufacturers, as well as the many construction firms engaged in rebuilding the country; the overwhelming majority of them are, of course, American. (I reiterate that I'm not saying this was the motivation for war, I'm just saying it's a benefit that the US economy has gained from it.)
Oh, and not that it's relevant, but your suggestion that the USA saw no need to defend Europe from the USSR and was only doing it for the sake of others is just humbug. The USA was following McCarthyist ideas and the Domino Theory; it was assumed that if regular trading partners in Western Europe were conquered by the USSR, they would be forced to stop trading with capitalist countries, the USA would lose its foothold in important foreign markets, and that would cripple its economy.

The Soviet economy, meanwhile, would grow further and further as more countries would be forced to open their markets to Moscow. This would eventually lead, it was assumed, to the USSR the economic powerhouse of the world, and the USA would no longer be able to afford to sustain its own military. Yes, the Domino Theory is simplistic and paranoid, but it was believed in very firmly by many in the US Government through the Cold War, and the motivation for it was chiefly self-interested.
Further, your claim that the USA was safe from the USSR during the Cold War is untrue, as the Russian ICBM and long-range bomber capability could attack any US city (a problem briefly exacerbated by the Cuban missile crisis).