Arms companies promoting conflict

The current $70 billion international arms trade is extremely aggressive in its marketing.  The industry has a history of deliberately promoting the flow of weapons into already tense regions.  This undermines possibilities for far less destructive means of resolving conflicts.

We have learnt little from history, even that of the much-commemorated First World War. Dr Douglas Newton, historian and author of “Hell-Bent: Australia’s Leap into the Great War”, has written in relation to that war[1]

Owning the ‘kill chain’ was immensely lucrative. But military contracting was easily corrupted. In many nations there were scandals. For example, the Krupp firm was found in 1913 to have been systematically bribing officials in the Ministry of War to dish rival firms. Sensational trials followed exposing a network of bribery.  In every country, periodic scares fuelled spending.  Powerful interests orchestrated these scares….

One hundred years on, the arms trade remains one of the most corrupt in the world. In 2011, three researchers for the authoritative Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said ‘[t]he arms trade is uniquely and disproportionately infected with corruption’.  As one example, the parent company of BAE Systems was fined $US400 million in 2010 under US anti-bribery legislation.

The following reports relate to the business opportunities that Middle East wars represent.

“U.S. defense industry’s profits soaring along with global tensions”

Lockheed, Northrop, Raytheon and General Dynamics are reaping record rewards for shareholders

September 25, 2014, Richard Clough, Bloomberg news

You can read this article at , but here are some excerpts:

Led by Lockheed Martin, the biggest U.S. defense companies are trading at record prices as shareholders reap rewards from escalating military conflicts around the world.

Investors see rising sales for makers of missiles, drones and other weapons as the U.S. hits Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq, said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at Chicago-based BMO Private Bank. President Barack Obama approved open-ended airstrikes this month while ruling out ground combat.

As we ramp up our military muscle in the Mideast, there’s a sense that demand for military equipment and weaponry will likely rise,” said Ablin, who oversees $66 billion including Northrop Grumman and Boeing shares. “To the extent we can shift away from relying on troops and rely more heavily on equipment — that could present an opportunity.”

“Who’s Paying the Pro-War Pundits?”

September 12, 2014. Lee Fang. The Nation

This article is at, and here are some excerpts: 

“If you read enough news and watch enough cable television about the threat of the Islamic State, the radical Sunni Muslim militia group better known simply as IS, you will inevitably encounter a parade of retired generals demanding an increased US military presence in the region. They will say that our government should deploy, as retired General Anthony Zinni demanded, up to 10,000 American boots on the ground to battle ISIS. Or, as in retired General Jack Keane’s case, they will make more vague demands, such as for “offensive” air strikes and the deployment of more military advisers to the region.

But what you won’t learn from media coverage of ISIS is that many of these former Pentagon officials have skin in the game as paid directors and advisers to some of the largest military contractors in the world. Ramping up America’s military presence in Iraq and directly entering the war in Syria, along with greater military spending more broadly, is a debatable solution to a complex political and sectarian conflict. But those goals do unquestionably benefit one player in this saga: America’s defense industry.”

“Retired General Anthony Zinni, perhaps the loudest advocate of a large deployment of American soldiers into the region to fight IS, is a board member to BAE Systems’ US subsidiary, and also works for several military-focused private equity firms.”

““I think an inclination to use military action a lot is something the defense industry subscribes to because it helps to perpetuate an overall climate of permissiveness towards military spending,” says Ed Wasserman, dean of the UC Berkeley Graduate School for Journalism.”

“The pro-war punditry of retired generals has been the subject of controversy in the past. In a much-cited 2008 exposé, The New York Times revealed a network of retired generals on the payroll of defense contractors who carefully echoed the Bush administration’s Iraq war demands through appearances on cable television.”

“As the business network CNBC reported this week, Raytheon in particular has much to gain from escalation in Iraq, as the company produces many of the missiles and radar equipment used in airstrikes.”

August 2015




[1] “The war profiteers in World War 1”. Paper for MAPW (Australia).