War is big business, people. According to this morning’s The New York Times:
From tanks, helicopters and fighter jets to missiles, remotely piloted aircraft and even warships, the Department of Defense has agreed so far this fiscal year to sell or transfer more than $32 billion in weapons and other military equipment to foreign governments, compared with $12 billion in 2005.
…“This is not about being gunrunners,” said Bruce S. Lemkin, the Air Force deputy under secretary who is helping to coordinate many of the biggest sales. “This is about building a more secure world.”
…In that booming market, American military contractors are working closely with the Pentagon, which acts as a broker and procures arms for foreign customers through its Foreign Military Sales program.
In the last year, foreign sales have made up nearly half of the production at the [Boeing] California plant where C-17s are made. “It has been filling up the factory in the last couple of years,” Mr. Dunehew said.
Even before this new round of sales got under way, the United States’ share of the world arms trade was rising, from 40 percent of arms deliveries in 2000 to nearly 52 percent in 2006, the latest year for which the Congressional Research Service has compiled data. The next-largest seller was Russia, which in 2006 accounted for 21 percent of global deliveries.
Remember: “This is not about being gunrunners…This is about building a more secure world.” Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and the Defense Department all have your best interests in mind and their methods can be trusted to save the world. Right. In other news:
The Boeing Corporation, in Seattle, sold thre two-engine airplanes to Germany. These planes “might be regarded by a military expert as admirable potential bombers,” said The New York Times; German engineers were studying them attentively…In Berlin, an American commercial attache wrote that American manufacturers were selling Germany crankshafts, cylinder heads, control systems for anti-aircraft guns, and components sufficient to make about a hundred planes a month. There were, the attache reported, orders outstanding to equip two thousand planes.
It was May 1934.
The preceding is a quote from Human Smoke: The Beginnings of World War II, the End of Civilization. Earlier in the book, Nicholas Baker recounts:
H.C. Engelbrecht, author of Merchants of Death, a bestseller about arms dealers, spoke at a conference of the American Academy of Political Science. “Armament is an industry that knows no politics, friends, right or wrong–but only customers,” Engelbrecht said. “If you can pay, you can buy…In every war…the armament maker who sells internationally is arming a potential enemy of is own country–and that, practically, if not legally, is treason.”
America seems to suffer from a Sisyphus curse: every generation, we roll the stone of our national consciousness up the hill of hard experience. Through wars, through follies, through atrocities wielded in the name of peace through strength, through the ultimate futility of violence as a means to shape a better world. And just when we get to the top of the hill, when we begin to rise above the fog of illusion to survey the kingdom of the battle-god where a thousand corpses lie, the curse strikes. The angel that beckoned us, “Come up, come up!” sheds his robe of light and grins his seven-headed scaly grin. His tail flicks! Down rolls the stone! Down through mythic rewrites of the history of slaughters, down, sped along by propaganda, by nationalism, by the dragon’s myth of redemptive violence. And again, at the bottom of the slope, unremembering, we lay down our crosses, pick up our swords, and strain for the treacherous glory at the top of the mountain.