Edited by Christopher J. Coyne and Rachel L. Mathers
Chapter 12: The Arms Trade
David Kinsella 12.1 INTRODUCTION The Book-of-the-Month Club’s April selection in 1934 was Merchants of Death. In that best-selling volume, H.C. Engelbrecht and F.C. Hanighen argued that the activities of arms merchants undermine the policies of national governments to whom they owe allegiance. Part of their message was, in essence, that American neutrality was compromised during World War I by weapons manufacturers whose strict adherence to commercial principles in peddling their wares left them little incentive to ponder the political or moral implications of their profession. The arms business is exactly that – a business – and business is good when nations are at war, or when they fear it. Merchants of Death figured prominently among the polemics that fueled the flames of American isolationism, culminating in the Neutrality Acts of 1935–39. Prior to the passage of the Neutrality Acts and the formation of the Munitions Control Board, the export of weaponry by American merchants was essentially unregulated. By the outbreak of a second World War in Europe, the US Government had established controls over private arms sales, and thus what was for the arms merchants a means of profit became for the government an instrument of foreign policy. This new role for arms transfers was inaugurated with the signing of the Lend-Lease Act of 1941, in the hopes that direct American involvement in the European war could be avoided, and that the country would remain merely the great arsenal of democracy. With the passing of international arms marketing from the private...
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