As post-World War II measures to contain Soviet expansionism, US civilm -industrial efforts under the Marshall Plan were at least as effective as US militarym -industrial efforts to build and maintain NATO.
Now, instead of trying to lead Western democracies in yet another escalation of the arms race with the Soviet bloc, Washington should lead the West in a race with the Soviets to close gaps between rich and poor at home and abroad. This is a more effective strategy for containment of communism and expansion of democratic, liberal capitalism.
During the period 1965-80 both the quantities of US arms exports and numbers of military coups and combat engagement by 42 governments receiving US arms were 50 percent higher than they were during the period 1950-65. Could such a high correlation between US arms exports and political instability have occurred by happenstance? American foreign and domestic policies are to folster the security of democratic government and growth of free- enterprise market economies, not to supply the means for more frequent and violent military actions.
The arms race has intensified and spread to third- world nations not only because of competition between NATO and Warsaw Pact governments. Nor has it been because third-world nations demand modern weapons more than civil-industrial capabilities for improving their living standards. There has also been strong competition between the US and other Western democracies to spread the skyrocketing costs of military-industrial establishments among nonaligned governments; or to reduce deficits in international trade and currency payments to OPEC nations.
Administration officials have argued that, if the West does not supply weapons, then governments of developing nations will turn to Soviet-bloc industries. But egypt, Zimbabwe, and Somalia have demonstrated that this is not true. For all their militancy against the US, Algeria and Angola remain major suppliers of energy to and customers of consumer-industrial products from Western industries. There is doubt that Warsaw Pact industries would be capable of supplying all the weapons procured by developing countries.
Citizens of Asia, Latin America, and Africa are emigrating to the West in increasing numbers. Their governments are working strenuously to build what they call a new international economic order. Their efforts are focused mainly on the West. They know that Western democracies offer the best sources of capital, technological and managerial know-how, and freedom for their development. Governments of developing nations would not be likely to turn to Soviet-controlled industries, if Western democracies ceased competing with each other and exported weapons only when there was a genuine agreement on military needs in developing regions.
If the US were to execute policies for multilateral allied cooperation in developing, deploying, and exporting common conventional arms, then its allies would respond by increasing their military expenditures. US procurement from their defense industries would enhance their export trade in high technology markets. The military effectiveness of NATO forces would be increased, because they would use standard equipment requiring less material and manpower for support than the many different kinds of tanks, vehicles, aircraft, or rifles now deployed by NATO forces. NATO's defense costs could be reduced, because it would no longer be necessary for West Germans, French, British, and Americans to pay for redundant industrial capabilities needed to develop and produced different tanks, aircraft, or missiles. Competition to export arms to nonaligned governments would be sharply reduced. Cooperative weapons programs would create larger opportunities for Western defense contractors to compete, consort, or merge interests. They could also become more productive and efficient while they helped to increase Western solidarity on issues of defense, energy, transfers of capital, technology, and jobs.
Cooperation would also help to equalize burdens of defense expenditures by Western allies. For the US this could mean a significant reduction instead of a n increase in annual defense costs.