|About the Book|
In this book, Anthony Sampson describes the development of the giant arms companies, beginning with Vickers, Armstrong and Krupp, and traces the recent origins of the boom in arm sales, culminating in the Middle East. He tells how the industrial arms trade proliferated in the late nineteenth century, with such inventors as Hiram Maxim and Alfred Nobel, who blew up his own brother with dynamite- how the debate about Merchants of Death raged through the nineteen-thirties- how during the Second World War the tiny Californian companies grew into vast but insecure corporations, uneasily married to the Pentagon, led by Lockheed, the biggest of them all- and how in the last four years, after the end of the Vietnam war and the energy crisis, a new wave of arms exports has provided jobs and foreign earnings for the Western countries. It has been at the price of a dangerous and cynical building up of weapons in the Gulf, while the Lockheed and Northop scandals have uncovered of corruption from Holland to Japan.This is a book, not about the technicalities or strategy, but about the character and motivations of the companies and the men who run them, and the problems of those trying to control them. Anthony Sampson has gone through the mass of new evidence- he has talked to company officials in California, New York, London and Tokyo, to statesman and diplomats in the Western capitals, and to Middle Eastern customers from the Shah of Iran to Adnan Khashoggi. He has pieced together the jigsaw of evidence to produce a narrative which shows the interplay of companies and government, of arms sellers and dealers, with the stakes and tension constantly increasing, and the issue of bribery always in the background. Throughout the narrative he tries to answer the recurring questions and problems of the arms trade, in the light of the contemporary crisis. Are the companies really out of control? Must Western economies still depend on arms sales for their prosperity? Is bribery inseparable from arms sales, and have bribes seriously affected the pattern of the trade? Can the secrecy of the British arms trade be justified? Can President Carter restrict the export of weapons, and persuade Britain and France to join in international agreements?Sampson sees the problems not in terms of villains and dark forces, but in terms of dynamic and resourceful men who have been caught up in situations of desperate competition, and who have unwittingly made a Faustian pact to ignore the moral problems. He likens the current problems of the aerospace industry to the end of the railway boom in the last century, which likewise turned companies to exporting arms- and he concludes with constructive suggestions as to how the headlong competition can be restrained.