Arms Control refers to the limitation placed on production, stockpiling and proliferation of weapons. The term has largely become synonymous to nuclear weapons’ restriction from the times of Cold War. The military industry, estimated to be valued at US Dollars 1.7 trillion, roughly equates the total economy of the Russian Federation, a country with the world’s largest nuclear arsenal.

The daily defence spending of US in the year 2015 is estimated to be US Dollars 14 million in the campaign against ISIS. According to the National Priorities Project, Predator and Reaper Drones cost an estimated US Dollars 116,063 to US taxpayers’ money, every hour (2016); whereas F-35 Fighter requires US Dollars 936,703 (2016) and nuclear weapons, US Dollars 2.19 million (2016).

Economic interests dominate all other interests, one of the foremost reasons for the delay in international treaty agreements including Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the ambitious Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), calling for complete disarmament.

It is not surprising that when such tremendous amount of money is at stake, big and powerful statesmen relatively those of weaker states, have difficulty in initiating policy and control over what has been dubbed as ‘Military Industrial Complex’ (MIC) by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. MIC has growing global influence, a fact well-depicted in films ‘War Dogs’ (2016) and ‘Lord of Wars’ (2016). Economic interests dominate all other interests, one of the foremost reasons for the delay in international treaty agreements including Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the ambitious Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), calling for complete disarmament.

Since the end of Cold War, defence spending have continued to rise. There has been proliferation in nuclear weapons since the year 1967. A number of states including Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea have sophisticated weapon technology due to divergent interests of great power geopolitics and interests pertaining to Capital politick.

Military Industrial Complex

Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th President of US, who previously served as Chief of Staff (Army), highlighted the dangers of excessive arms production. The first Republican Commander in Chief in two decades brought a paradigm shift in military thinking when he announced for substantial military cuts at a time when the ‘Cold War was getting hotter’. At the end of his term, he warned the public of the increasing power of MIC, which if remained unchecked would defy American values and core interest.

Since Eisenhower’s time, the armament industry has steadily grown in power and influence. In the years alone of his Democrat successor John F. Kennedy, the stockpile of nuclear weapons grew to 24,000 warheads in the year 1961 from only a 1,000 in 1952, when the former Supreme Allied Commander elevated to the Oval office. Today, it is considered the strongest most lobby in Congress, which out rightly opposes even the strongest public office holder who threatens their vital interests. Robert Gates, former Defence Secretary was refused when he proposed 78 billion US Dollars defence spending cuts in the wake of 2008’s financial meltdown.

According to the Globe, which has analysed career paths of 750 top brass of military personnel in the last decade, most ended up in business as ‘rent-a-general’. It is reported that around 80 percent of ‘three and four-star generals’ went to work in private defence corporations, often having inside information of the Pentagon and being treated with ‘special deference as if still in uniform,’ which enhances their credibility in getting military contracts.

In this scenario, private contractors and security firms gain unparalleled access to the highest circles of governments and flourish often at the expenses of other state sectors like healthcare and education. Military Professional Resources Inc. (MPRI) is said to boast that they have ‘more generals per square foot than in the Pentagon’.

Eisenhower’s warning of MIC and Obama’s vision of a Global Zero remains an idealistic image in a realpolitik, capitalist world which seems to be dictated more by ‘money, power and more money’ 

In this peculiar environment, successive Presidents often unsuccessfully have tried to control the arms industry which can be seen by their drastic shift from election manifesto to ascendance in the White House. Eisenhower’s warning of MIC and Obama’s vision of a Global Zero remains an idealistic image in a realpolitik, capitalist world which seems to be dictated more by ‘money, power and more money’.

Military Keynesian Economist

An entire school of thought is dedicated in the discipline of economics which ties military spending to state’s macroeconomic goals. Military Keynesian economists advocate for an increased military spending, which they believe plays a tremendous role in fostering economic growth and employment opportunities. They reject Adam Smith’s core notion of a public defence industry, calling for privatization and radical deregulations. Any move to hamper the MIC, as per the Military Keynesians would prove ‘heavy’ and ‘unbearable’ to the exchequer. In essence, they strongly disagree with any move for arms control and disarmament.

A number of Republicans and many notables in the Democrat Party of the US criticize any move to restrict the number of warheads, both conventional and/or nuclear. During the detente period of Cold War, President Richard Nixon and his successors had to face strong criticism at the signing of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talk (SALT) in Congress for jeopardizing the nation’s economic and security interests.

It is believed that Nixon Doctrine (1969) was grounded on a similar mind set, which allowed rich states like Iran and Saudi Arabia to purchase the latest and most sophisticated US military technology. This provided the necessary face-saving when the war in Vietnam was proving to be extravagant. 

Military Keynesianism is grounded in some assumptions. It is believed that military spending serves as ‘pump primer’, which results in long-term multiplier effects. They give the example of the US during World War II where the superpower’s Gross National Product (GNP) more than quadrupled. To waive of a recession or potential stagflation, the Military Keynesianism call for rapid increase in military projects and defence spending. Like other commodities, military equipment can bring additional revenue to the government at downturn economic situations at state that is at planning and research level, and at intrastate as a result of military exports.

It is believed that Nixon Doctrine (1969) was grounded on a similar mind set, which allowed rich states like Iran and Saudi Arabia to purchase the latest and most sophisticated US military technology. This provided the necessary face-saving when the war in Vietnam was proving to be extravagant.

Economics of Nuclear Weapons

Nuclear weapons provide for a reliable and cost-effective way to secure defence of a country. It is the very reason why smaller and relatively less powerful states have long been interested in getting the weapons which have massive destructive capacity. It is because of this notion that arms control treaties and regimes have been established over the years. Most significant are the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). However, it should be noted that despite all the laws and rules of sanction, a number of states have acquired nuclear weapons since the treaty was signed. The dictation of capitalist economics is a noteworthy question here, where states such as Iraq, North Korea and Syria have been previously alleged to have their Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) knowledge and equipment, procured from the black market.

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