War as a Business

dollars1.jpgLong before I ever thought to write a book on the hafnium bomb, I actually had plans for a book about foreign military sales. In fact, when I left government to return to journalism, it was with the express intention of writing an entire book about the sale of F-16 fighters to foreign countries. It was going to be called “Dogfight.” I’m sure it would have had all of three readers with interests as wonky as mine, so it’s a good thing it never got much beyond the chapter outline stage.

Okay, so it may not be deserving of an entire book, but the sale of major U.S. weapons to foreign countries is one of those areas that screams out for greater attention. For example, my story this week in Aviation Week & Space Technology covers something that seems to get only cursory treatment in the press: the doubling of foreign military sales this past year.

Foreign military sales hit $21 billion this year — about twice that of previous years, and second only to 1993, when post-Gulf War sales helped boost arms exports to over $30 billion (not including direct commercial sales). There are some caveats to these numbers, as the story point out, but it’s still significant how the global war on terror seems to have benefited defense exports. Those against arms sales will argue these exports are destabilizing, and those for such exports will say they benefit U.S. national security. Whatever the case, the numbers alone tell a fascinating story.

It’s also interesting that Iraq is contributing almost a $1 billion a year to that total.

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