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Lords of War: Buying an Empire of Trust

Monday, March 29, 2010

As Defense Secretary Gates continues to (wisely) slash unnecessary spending programs from the DOD budget, closer attention should be payed to the programs that have retained funding. 

An interesting report by the Center for New American Security analyzes the post-Cold War development of a global defense industrial network driven by the Pentagon as a "hub" supplier/ operator. 

Maybe this makes sense. After all, the world has integrated to the point that we now talk about "global security" as often as "national security." The objectives of the U.S. and its allies include promoting global stability. We are "world citizens" in a "global village" and we are concerned about "global climate change" as a threat to national security. 

But what does it mean for the U.S. to globalize its military spending?

Its not a secret that the U.S. cashes in on the sale of weapons. Every year, our government scores billions on military hardware sales to our allies and small arms sales to just about everyone else.  

But its still very expensive for the U.S. to provide global security. The U.S. military currently maintains around 1,000 overseas bases in 63 countries. Plans for closing/ opening bases continue as Pentagon strategists plan to operationalize a global network of "lily pads" for rapid strike force deployment.  

With growing concern over deficit spending isn't it a smart move to cut production costs by outsourcing to our allies?

Before saying yes, consider that tales of special interest profiteering and bureaucratic incompetence are familiar to us when discussing domestic-based programs such the V-22 Osprey or the F-22 Raptor. But before passing judgement on American defense manufacturers (and hey, I love to),  just remember that business is business all over the world. Recently, the British weapons maker BAE got into some big trouble over corruption charges that rank right up there in scope with Blackwater and Haliburton on our side of the pond. Would we just be extending the shadow of corruption into the hands of foreign governments? 

I'm not so sure. A traditional liberal theory (as in classical liberalism) is that increasing trade between two countries diminishes their prospects for war because war ceases to be unprofitable.I mean let's face it, ALL WAR is about resources. This is an idea touted by some advocates of the Democratic Peace Theory and its one that I tend to agree with. And so I ask the question: does globalizing the military industrial complex make it less likely for countries to fight each other if they rely on each other to produce their weapons? Or do you think it will encourage countries to fight more because the cost of weapons systems is cheaper than before?

 Is the United States working towards divestment from the fabled "military industrial complex" or is our country playing a dangerous game by "outsourcing" defense purchasing?

Should the Pentagon continue to foster closer relationships with foreign allies to promote global security or should the U.S. military be dramatically "downsized", forcing other countries to pay their own way amidst a rising "defense deficit"?

Read the report. Sit with it. Let me know what you think...

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