Suppose you are an arms manufacturer (you may actually be an arms manufacturer as this is a public post!). There are three ways of making money from your products: planned or unplanned obsolescence; high maintenance costs; get your clients to buy more product, perhaps by actually using them.
Although wars have traditionally been the quickest driver of new weapons (think radar, tank, jet engine and atomic bomb as twentieth century examples) the current pace of technology makes obsolescence a realistic short-term possibility. Suppose, however, you are Lockheed Martin who make the Trident system. It is clear that a ballistic missile maker won’t get a great many sales! Its like buying a car which is too reliable and lasts too long. So, as with the car, tying the customer to a maintenance schedule is important. Along with the Royal Navy submarine upkeep, the annual maintenance cost of Trident is estimated to be about £2.3bn.
What about the most destructive way of making money, getting your customers to use their weapons? Considering the wars that have taken place over the past twenty five years it is possible to work out the desirable parameters. The war must be large enough to necessitate the use of expensive, probably missile, technology (and the occasional destruction of an asset such as a fighter plane) Trump firing 59 Cruise missiles at Syria at around $1mil per shot is perfect! And that was just a simple retaliatory action. Small ‘boots on the ground’/police actions with mostly rifles and bullets aren’t going t make that much profit (as in, for example, saving innocents from a central African genocide). Besides, open spaces like deserts really allow you to use the expensive stuff!
But the war must not be too big that it destabilises the world. Fellow large multi-national Corporations like stability, so the war should not really disrupt world trade to any extent; profit forecasts must be met. Besides, ending the world is very bad for repeat sales (even for Lockheed Martin!). So the West is very cautious in North Korea!
Next the war must not be seen to have too many civilian casualties or the casualties must be easily presented as evil and thus disposable. Ideally there should be few or none of your own casualties. This means, either way, the public will not get on the politicians backs to stop the conflict.
Finally the war, either during its execution but most certainly afterwards must present your investors with opportunities for profits from reconstruction. A few months ago I wrote a post about the situation in Syria and included a report from the Washington Post about major Gulf States (including Saudi Arabia) financial backing for Assad. If we had really wanted to sort out Syria then this is where we should have started, with the Middle East banks. But there is no profit in this, unlike arms to be used in Yemen!
So to sum up, Small proxy wars are best just as long as the controlling powers understand the situation and it does not get out of control.
Maybe this post is simply cynical. But allowing for the fact that oil is an important driving factor in when and where we decide to go to war we are always ready to defend liberty where this a private profit to be made for organisations such as BAE systems. Otherwise, you are on your own. However cynical this post, it is nowhere near the level shown by arms manufacturers!