The Modern Defense Industry: Political, Economic, and Technological Issues

The Modern Defense Industry: Political, Economic, and Technological Issues

The Modern Defense Industry: Political, Economic, and Technological Issues

The Modern Defense Industry: Political, Economic, and Technological Issues

Excerpt

It is arguable that, before World War II, there was no global arms industry to speak of, and it certainly did not exist on the same scale as it does today. To be sure, there were armories producing rifles and cannon, shipyards constructing warships of all manner and classes, and during the 1920s and 1930s, aircraft companies manufacturing fighter planes and bombers. At the same time, however, arms manufacturing throughout much of history was small beer—a minor business, and a rather sporadic one at that, rising and falling as wars and conflict waxed and waned. This was reflected in the attention, or more precisely, the lack of attention that the defense industry generally received from scholars and other observers, especially political scientists and economists. Aside from a few studies done after World War I on such companies as Krupp, Maxim, and Vickers (the “Merchants of Death” school of literature), there was relatively little serious scholarly effort put into studying the world’s arms industry before World War II.

This all changed after that war and the subsequent cold war, largely because those two conflicts dramatically impacted the scale, scope, and character of the global arms industry. After 1939, globalized conflict, in one form or another, became more or less permanent, and as a result, the defense industry also became permanent. Continual warfare, or, during the cold war, the ever-present threat of a serious military confrontation between East and West, required a large, stable, and enduring arms industry capable of churning out the latest and most up-to-date machinery of death. Consequently, the United States progressed almost seamlessly from being the “Arsenal of Democracy” to harboring the military-industrial complex. During this same period, defense industries in Western Europe and the Soviet Union (and its successor state, the Russian Federation) also continued to grow, in size, scope, and technological sophistication, and, like a weed, armaments production spread to other parts of the world, particularly China, Israel, India, South Africa, and Brazil.

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