Responding to Defense Dependence: Policy Ideas and the American Defense Industrial Base

By Erik R. Pages | Go to book overview

2
Explaining Responses to Dependence

As we saw in Chapter One, realist theory does not offer a complete explanation for American defense industrial base policy in the 1980s. Based on their understanding of states as "defensive positionalists" (i.e., concerned with their position vis-a-vis existing and potential competitors in an anarchic international system), realists view relative gains as a state's dominant foreign policy concern. Realists would thus expect states to avoid situations of severe dependence if possible. Realists would further predict that defense dependence should trigger air active government response, taking several possible forms: protection of domestic industries, insurance through stock-piling or other measures, or active intervention through subsidies, tax incentives, and so on.

This is not what happened. When faced with growing defense dependence, American political leaders did not react in a manner designed to support relative gains. Instead, they clung to traditional policy patterns in place since World War II and argued that the American defense industrial base was best preserved through open markets and free defense trade among the allies. Even in the exceptional cases of machine tools and semiconductors, opposition to government intervention was substantial. 1 To understand American policy, we must turn to other suggested explanations for the variation in the degree of government intervention. In this literature, three major categories of explanation have been proposed: interest group pressures, state autonomy, and shared images.


INTEREST GROUP EXPLANATIONS

Until quite recently, interest group explanations for protectionism dominated the literature on U.S. trade policy. These studies, which focused on the role of societal

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