|Global military spending is over $2 trillion, with the United States by itself spending almost half this amount. Total US military spending is now at $989 billion. This number includes not only the formal expenditure on the US military, but also expenditure on the Veteran’s Administration, the Department of Energy, the National Nuclear Security Administration, the Cybersecurity component of the Department of Justice, Homeland Security and the military aspects of the State Department. It does not include the immense secret budget of the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency. Add these up and the US military budget is already over $1 trillion, as our friends at Monthly Review found in 2007. The United States spends more on its military than the next nine highest-spending countries combined: China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, India, France, United Kingdom, Japan, Germany and South Korea. ‘Security’ or ‘deterrence’ are not the main aims of such formidable military spending. A world awash with weapons leads to tragedies, such as the recent massacre in Sri Lanka, where military-grade explosives were used in the terrible murder of over three hundred and fifty innocent people.
Focus on the arms industry is sporadic, with the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) and others like it lonely in their work. Recent reports from SIPRI show that the volume of arms transfers – a major part of the business of the arms trade – has been rising over the years, with the United States, Russia, France, Germany and China as the biggest exporters of weapons (they account for 75% of all world arms sales). The United States, by itself, sells 36% of the world’s arms – with a focus on combat aircraft, short-range cruise missiles and ballistic missiles and guided bombs. The top ten arms companies in the world are:
- Lockheed Martin ($44.9 billion) [USA]
- Boeing ($26.9 billion) [USA]
- Raytheon ($23.9 billion) [USA]
- BAE Systems ($22.9 billion) [UK]
- Northrop Grumman ($22.4 billion) [USA]
- General Dynamics ($19.5 billion) [USA]
- Airbus Group ($11.3 billion) [Europe]
- Thales ($9 billion) [France]
- Leonardo ($8.9 billion) [Italy]
- Almaz-Antey ($8.6 billion) [Russia]
Why do governments spend such a vulgar amount on weapons? In his monumental Grundrisse (1857), Karl Marx made the offhand, but accurate remark, ‘The impact of war is self-evident, since economically it is exactly the same as if the nation were to drop a part of its capital into the ocean’. A permanent war economy is a waste, even if there are massive profits to be made by these warfare companies. So much can be done with $2 trillion – a mere $30 billion per year to end world hunger, as the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation noted in 2008. Last year, the UN began a campaign to raise $10 billion to eradicate illiteracy. But even these meagre funds have been impossible to raise, the promise of ‘billions into trillions’ from the much-heralded public-private partnerships falling flat. There is always money for war, but never enough money to build the scaffolding for peace.
There is always the illusion that military spending is for security, when it appears to be more for profit. The entire industry is lubricated with bribes. Joe Roeber of Transparency International said that the arms trade is ‘hard-wired for corruption’. ‘In 1997, I was told in Washington that a mid-nineties report by the CIA concluded’, he wrote, that ‘arms trade corruption then accounted for 40-45% of the total corruption in world trade’. The national security argument, Roeber suggested, ‘throws a veil of secrecy around arms deals’, whose scale is so large that even small percentages of bribes make for large dollar amounts. Bribery is normal, the deals that are revealed are startling – bribes running from $300 million (the South African-BAE deal from 1997-98) to $8 billion (the Saudi-BAE deal from 1985-2007).