- Arms companies need wars to create American jobs
By Abdur Rasool Syed
Following the assassination of top Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani by the USA, and the subsequent vow by Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei to avenge him, the USA again seemed on the brink of war with Iran.
The question always haunting intelligentsia and men in the street alike is why the USA can’t help fighting wars. Why is its checkered history replete with wars without any apposite casus belli? The answer is simple: war is an indispensable US economic sine qua non. Its economy is heavily dependent on its military capital hence, if there is no war anywhere, its economy is likely to nosedive. This is never acknowledged by US political leaders and seldom by even its media.
The big arms companies serve as the vertebral column for the US economy. Without continuous and prolonged warfare in which their guns, bombs, tanks, warships and submarines are deployed, they would go out of business. This situation eggs the USA to be embroiled into war either overtly or covertly.
The USA has militarily intervened 223 times since Independence. So, does the fault lie in the evil nature of the individuals who reach office or the gargantuan appetite of the military- industrial complex that prompts every US President, whether pacifist or hawkish, to wage a war? The big arms manufacturers keep the country engaged in wars since it is a question of their survival.
Whenever there is a conflict, anywhere in the world; nine times out of ten, the USA, is somehow involved. It has a long history of engineering coups, toppling regimes and backing military juntas worldwide.
The USA’s ruling elite needs to divert its people’s money towards peaceful sectors. This policy will not only end Washington’s reliance on wars to create jobs at home but will also save millions of lives annihilated due to the insatiable appetite of the military-industrial complex
According to economists, the USA is a state oxygenated by its war industry. The joint venture between the US arms industry and government is as old as the country. Even the Civil War turned out to be immensely profitable for US arms manufacturers. However, the end of that war resulted in declining demand and many gun-makers going bankrupt. But those securing foreign contracts continued to mint money. Later, the Spanish-American War also helped arms manufacturers.
The story does not end here. Under capitalism, the destruction of one country or region feeds into prosperity of another state or region. This is what happened during World War I. The USA remained neutral during most it, entering in April 1917. But the mobilisation of its economy was extraordinary. Over four million served in the armed forces and the US economy produced a vast supply of raw materials and munitions.
The end of the war resulted in a huge slump in production. Some historians claim that peace was one of the contributing factors in the Great Depression. The economic crisis created unemployment of up to 25 per cent.
This grim situation prompted then US President Roosevelt to launch the New Deal. But it is believed while it created only four million jobs, while World War II provided every American with one.
The Great Depression in America only ended during, and because of, WWII. “Economic demand rose spectacularly,” one economist writes. “The war allowed American industry to produce unlimited amounts of war equipments… In addition, the American industry also supplied humungous amount of equipment to the British and even the Soviets via Lend-Lease. The key problem of the Great Depression– the disequilibrium between supply and demand– was thus resolved because the state ‘primed the pump’ of economic demand by means of huge orders of a military nature”.
The war ended the effects of the Great Depression, giving Americans higher wages and increasing their purchasing power. It is widely believed that US giants also immensely exploited this dreadful carnage.
According to historian Stuart Brandes, “between 1942 and 1945, the net profits of America’s 2,000 biggest firms were more than 40 per cent higher than during 1936-1939… This largesse benefited the American business world in general, but in particular that relatively restricted elite of big corporations known as ‘big businesses or ‘corporate America’. During the war, less than 60 firms obtained 75 per cent of all lucrative military and other state orders”. Many economists claim that a phenomenal increase was witnessed in economic activity during wartime. For instance, the GDP growth skyrocketed to over 17 per cent in 1942.
After WWII, the USSR was used as a bogey to multiply affluence earned through military spending. The Korean War may have killed three million, but helped Washington achieve phenomenal GDP growth of 11.4 per cent in 1951. Although this growth decreased in subsequent years, it once again witnessed a boost in 1966 during the Vietnam War.
So, the Cold War supported the US arms industry. The industry simultaneously became one of the largest sources of employment for Americans. That role still continues.
To some extent, such dependence fuels conflicts as well. After the collapse of the USSR, the arms industry witnessed a downward spiral. But soon, there came Al-Qaeda and the War on Terror.
The largest US export deal to date is related to munitions. Trump struck a deal worth over $300 billion with Saudi Arabia. His administration is also making efforts to strike arms deals with Japan, Qatar and other states. Who is going to buy American arms if there is peace in the world?
According to history professor Robert Reich in 2010: “Over 1,400,000 Americans are now on active duty; another 833,000 are in the reserves, many full time. Another 1,600,000 Americans work in companies that supply the military with everything from weapons to utensils”. This reflects Americans’ dependence on arms companies for job creation. Reich believed that if the country did not have this giant military jobs programme, its unemployment rate would be over 11.5 per cent in 2010 instead of 9.5 per cent.
Intellectuals believe the USA must get rid of this military spending and direct resources towards other sectors that could create more jobs. A Brown University research report found that investments in education create nearly three times as many jobs as defence spending while healthcare creates about twice as many. While $1 million spent on defence creates 6.9 direct and indirect jobs, the same amount in elementary and secondary education creates 19.2, and on healthcare, 14.3.
The USA’s ruling elite needs to divert its people’s money towards peaceful sectors. This policy will not only end Washington’s reliance on wars to create jobs at home but will also save millions of lives annihilated due to the insatiable appetite of the military-industrial complex.