The Economics of COIN

I’ve written before about the macroeconomics of a counterinsurgency-based security posture, and specifically how COIN resembles a transfer of wealth, as compared to WWII, a.k.a. the “public works program” that ultimately got us out of the Great Depression. Andrew Exum of Abu Muqawama obliquely makes a similar point in a post titled “When Guns = Butter”:

This is a genuine conundrum.Does one, in an effort to trim the budget, cancel the F/A-22 program?Or does one, in the midst of a severe recession, keep what has become afederal jobs program?

In addition to trimming the budget, the justification for cutting the F-22 is that it doesn’t address the immediate needs of the counterinsurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Among the arguments for keeping it are Russian and Chinese advances in design (if not yet production) of their next generation fighter jets, but also the fact that America’s current fleet of F-15s has been operating beyond its shelf life.

One of AM’s commenters, Raymond III, suggests an insightful but ultimately troubling solution:

The simple solution is for congress to authorize the F-22 for sale toJapan and Australia. This 1.) keeps keeps the LockMart employees intheir jobs, and 2.) keeps the line open on someone else’s dollar sothat we can come back and buy more at a later date.

It’s only logical, to borrow Exum’s mathematical notation, that Financial Crisis + COIN + Globalization = Arms Exports. For that matter, as Richard Weitz recently pointed out in his WPR column, Anything + Globalization = Arms Exports. Weitz suggested that the financial crisis might dampen that trend, and it might be simplistic on my part to consider that reducing worldwide arms sales is an objective good. But if so, I’ll cop to being simplistic on this one. To my mind, the fact that Raymond III’s solution makes sense is a problem.