In the wake of the White Paper: does arms spending lead to war?

With the release of the Defence White Paper today, we are reposting a paper that we first posted in November 2014. The paper asks the question, ‘Does arms spending lead to war?’

The summary of our paper is here and the full paper here.  There are also some links to other related material; in some cases, notably the figures from SIPRI, more recent data may be available from the links given.

There is a history of earlier White Papers here. And a later collection of links.

The main article asks eight questions related to the issue of whether the desire for the best military ‘kit’ (like that projected in the White Paper) creates an incentive to use it in combat.

  1. Will ‘sunk costs’ provide an impetus towards the use of arms in combat? (In other words, will there be a disinclination to ‘waste’ all this investment?)
  2. Will the desire for a return on investment in arms influence military advice to governments which are considering involvement in war?
  3. Will the concern to achieve a return on investment also influence the response of governments to military advice?
  4. Will further pressure toward war come from the military desire to work successfully in combat environments with sophisticated ‘kit’, leading to promotion prospects for some and experience and training for all?
  5. Will there be a desire in government to support such opportunities for the military?
  6. Will arms sellers encourage moves to war to provide opportunities for ‘demonstrations in use’ of their products, leading in turn to future sales?
  7. Will the ‘return on investment’ and the ‘eternal expenditure’ spurs continually reinforce each other?
  8. Given the weight of all these drivers, to what extent will the desire not to place personnel ‘in harm’s way’ work as a countervailing factor?

The article also includes this graph, which correlates expenditure on arms with Australian military involvement overseas between 1960 and 2013.


Also there is this about arbitrary spending targets in defence. An opposing view.

25 February 2016 and updated

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