“We must be the great arsenal of democracy. For us this is an emergency as serious as war itself.”
- Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1940
Global arms sales data indicates that countries are preparing for war. And the United States is leading the race. The Congressional Research Service’s annual report on conventional arms sales explains: “The value of all arms transfer agreements worldwide . . . in 2011 was $85.3 billion. This was an extraordinary increase in arms agreements values (91.7%) over the 2010 total of $44.5 billion…. In 2011, the United States led in arms
transfer agreements worldwide, making agreements valued at $66.3 billion (77.7% of all such agreements), an extraordinary increase from $21.4 billion in 2010. The United States worldwide agreements total in 2011 is the largest for a single year in the history of the U.S. arms export program.”
Long before FDR declared that the U.S. would arm the free world in our fight against the Nazi threat, we sprang from humble beginnings. During the Revolutionary War, we were in dire need of munitions as we fought to overthrow the British Empire. We had strikingly few factories capable of producing weapons required for the war effort – and our government was so dysfunctional we lacked the money or leadership to properly supply our troops.
Instead, we won the war because of American patriotism and ingenuity. So eager to join in the cause for liberty, men (and some heroic women) abandoned their civilian lives, picked up their own hunting rifles, and jumped into the front lines of war. Once fighting, their guns often malfunctioned and they resorted to hand-to-hand combat to win the battles. They took that the trickle of supplies from the states and those munitions they won from our enemies and used it to defeat the strongest military in the world: the British.
It was American patriotism and ingenuity that not only won us the war, but eventually built us into the strongest military and largest arms producer in the world. Now that another battle looms, will the United States “lead from behind”?