Military corporations need wars for profits


Recent headlines have brought attention to the annual survey released by Defense News, a prominent US-based source, which meticulously assesses and ranks the world’s most significant military corporations. The report draws upon a blend of proprietary research by Defense News itself, insights from various think tanks, select government agency inputs, and data furnished by the corporations under scrutiny.

What renders this survey particularly noteworthy is its meticulous categorization of military and non-military outputs. Notably, corporations straddling both realms, such as Airbus, would secure higher defense industry rankings if their evaluations amalgamated military and civilian aviation endeavors. However, the classification differentiation relegates Airbus to the 15th spot rather than a higher slot within the top 10.

Three pivotal trends emerge from an analysis of the comprehensive list.

Firstly, the staggering scale of the largest corporations cannot be ignored. The current UK military expenditure, an encompassing sum covering equipment, remuneration, research, and sundry, hovers at approximately US$68.5 billion.

Remarkably, this figure is almost equaled by a single behemoth military corporation – the US-based Lockheed Martin. With a formidable budget of US$877 billion, the United States firmly holds its place at the zenith of defense spending. In contrast, countries worldwide, including Russia, are dwarfed by the financial prowess of these corporate giants.

Secondly, the enduring supremacy of American corporations on the global roster demands acknowledgment, with six out of the top ten positions secured by US entities. The influential players in this domain, including Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, General Dynamics, and L3Harris Technologies, collectively amass revenues surpassing US$200 billion.

This US preeminence has been a prevailing narrative since the Cold War’s conclusion. Even the UK-based BAE Systems, occupying the seventh spot with US$25.3 billion in defense revenue, derives a substantial portion of its income from the American market.

The third key observation centers around the burgeoning influence of Chinese enterprises on the international stage. In the current year, three Chinese corporations stake claims within the top ten, with one newcomer among them.

All three entities have notched up improved rankings. The Aviation Corporation ascends two positions to fourth place, China North Industries advances one rank to eighth, and China South leaps three places to clinch the tenth spot.

In addition to their financial might, these corporate juggernauts wield formidable lobbying capabilities. Many nations boasting robust military-industrial complexes perceive them as interconnected entities. The frequent exchange of personnel between military, civil service, and corporate spheres, particularly at upper echelons, underscores this synergy. Retiring high-ranking military officials, especially those overseeing weapon procurement and deployment, often transition into lucrative consultancy roles within corporations, or they might join think tanks or academic institutions.

Nonetheless, the crux of the matter is that all global military corporations are intrinsically dependent on wars, the specter of war, or even the underlying fear of conflict to sustain their profits. Their financial fortunes thrive under these conditions. Consequently, the prevailing geopolitical landscape, notably conflicts like the one in Ukraine, has the potential to galvanize increased military expenditures across various nations.

It is paramount, however, to also reflect on the devastating human and societal toll exacted by such conflicts. While Defense News’ data does not delve into this aspect, other sources, like Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, shed light on the matter. The Institute’s “post 9/11 wars” report underscores that nearly a million people have lost their lives due to direct war violence, with an estimated 3.6 to 3.8 million succumbing to the “reverberating effects” in the 22 years since the September 11, 2001 attacks. This chillingly tallies up to an approximate five million casualties across post-9/11 conflict zones. The report also laments that 38 million individuals have been forcibly displaced within their own countries or compelled to seek refuge abroad.

In terms of material ramifications, the costs are astronomical, surpassing $8 trillion. The reconstruction of shattered towns and cities in areas like Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Libya demands long-term commitment, and the toll on the psychological and physical well-being of countless individuals may linger for generations.

While surveys such as the one presented by Defense News provide valuable insights into the world of military corporations, a somber reality remains: these entities are fundamentally engaged in the commerce of death and destruction.


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