My pacifist friends sometimes argue that more jobs could be created by putting more money into human services instead of the war machine. I tend to question this. The establishment has a strong motivation to keep people occupied and contented.
The "defense" effort is a bottomless pit into which we can endlessly throw "excess" human energy, with the result that the pit only gets bigger. I think my friends are wanting to ignore the many support jobs, many in which they themselves are involved, which are created throughout industry by any new expenditure of money. A new industry which creates a hundred new jobs directly, may create thousands of jobs elsewhere. "Defense" jobs are especially attractive to those with well-developed technical skills.
Suppose, on the other hand, that we employ people to build schools, hospitals, insulate houses, build solar power generators etc. This would be too efficient, if employment is to be our first priority. These are basically one-time jobs and need relatively little further effort after the initial investment. Ongoing jobs in energy conservation would be minor compared to cutbacks in jobs in energy production and related industries. Increased child care, medical care and such would furnish a few more jobs but would make many more people available to the job market (mothers and the otherwise incapacitated). As a result, IF (keep in mind please, this is reverse psychology) IF our main goal must be employment, then we would lose rather than gain by emphasizing human services over "defense".
Stability of economic systems around the world are based on wastefulness as a "ballast" to be used when needed. Unless we emphasize long term goals such as space colonization, we would soon run short of forseeable ways to employ and spend as much as we do now. The great "danger" is that if we get into activities difficult to predict, then the establishment begins to lose control, and we can't have that, can we? In either case our "healthy", growing economy would soon begin to fall apart. Korea, Viet Nam, Central America, the Persian Gulf, it's all the same. War preparation is the greatest inefficiency around, therefore good, if we must have more jobs.
Can our economy, or any other, survive sithout "wars and rumors of wars? How do you and I profit economically and otherwise from "defense" production? Could we keep our present jobs (or other income) if a large part of the nation's workforce wasn't wasted on defense, bureaucracy, hospitals to handle the results of war, pollution etc.?
I doubt that another actual major war between major powers is likely, because the coalition (perhaps unconscious) of power manipulators of the world recognize that it wouldn't be profitable. But fear of war is very profitable (to them) at least in the short run. They continue to play brinksmanship so they can reap the profits of the weapons industry. They are unconcerned about the feelings of apathy that are created by the fear of war and lack of control. On the other hand, if we were to convince many people that a another war was unlikely, the powers would have to escalate conflicts a bit to prove otherwise.