The railroad boom in Europe and America (about 1850) created a thriving market for steel producers (all the lines and boxcars). Companies like Krupp, Vickers and Carnegie got very rich and powerful. But when those lines had been laid down across the continents, a saturation point was reached, and the steel market began to dwindle. The steel companies, in seeking to prevent business decline, looked about for new products to market. They came up with cannons as just the jimdandy thing. And market them they did, in part by selling to one country and then visiting that country's neighbors and saying, "Yikes, you have danger on your border now because they have cannon." It was to the perceived benefit of those steel companies to promote the idea of threat to security and sovereignty.
Nice story, and partly true for Europe, but not the United States. Our railroads were largely completed by 1880, but major armanmemt didn't start here until 1915.
I'm working from memory here on Anthony Sampson's book The Arms Bazaar which I read about 25 years ago and which now coughs dustily for attention in an attic far away.
But the point here is that weapons manufacturers market their products in essentially the same manner as General Motors or WonderBread (those steel companies being a paradigm historical example we can look at). That is, they not only supply
a market niche, they will seek to create new markets
where necessary. Per standard sales techniques, they will try to convince you of your dire need for their products (use FDS regularly or risk watching your lover throw up between your legs - the threat of this is real and is imminent). From a corporate perspective, expansion and market penetration is the proper end. And, in the present period, logistics and support service corporations related to warfare (eg Carlyle, Halliburton, Richard Perle's group, etc) operate in the same manner. War is good good money. Peace ain't. External threats are a boon for business. Promotion of external threats is part of the sale pitch. And if you want to find an area of language use replete with euphemism, this is the place to look..."anti-personnel capability" meaning something like how many bodies (men, women, children) can be blown apart, heads going this way, a leg going that way, the chest over to the south-southwest and intestines splattered colorfully against the wall. (I'll toss in here a mildly relevant observation I came across recently regarding the difference between American media coverage of the Iraq war and the coverage in Al Jazeera...the US media show the missles being launched and Al Jazeera showing them landing.)
The US now spends more on defence than the rest of the world combined. Try to imagine, just for a moment, how much money is involved in this. Threat, the promotion of the idea that the world is out to get the US, is a very good thing for big business.
Actually I believe U.S. defense expenditures are about 45% of the world's total - the fraction is even less if ppp ststistics are compared. (See the CIA World Factbook 2004).
I've queried my source on this data for clarification. Another source (NYRB) has US expenditures on defence greater than combined monies spent by China, Russia, Japan and the EU.
In either case, the figures are quite incomprehensibly large. Considered together with certain other figures, (ie something like 3 billion spent last year on lobbying Congress and some one half of ex Congressmen/women now working as lobbyists - source, Harpers) and one wonders what the hell Eisenhower would say today.
None of which is to say, obviously, that there are no external threats. But it is definitely to say that one would be foolish to accept estimations of threat from those voices tied into the defence corporate world who have a real vested interest in over-estimation of threat and a real vested interest in war. Eisenhower was hardly a dove, after all, and surely not an 'anti-American'.