The idea that a symbiotic relationship exists between the American military and the private, commercial industry which produces its weapons was for years a popular liberal explanation for the machinations of foreign policy. Republican presidents, like Ronald Reagan, were accused of determining America's international behavior by calculating which course of action would benefit companies like Lockheed-Martin most. The profits generated by America's involvement in wars and arms races, the theory posits, were then funneled into the pockets of policy-makers, thus perpetuating the relationship.

Whatever the idea's allure as an X-Files caliber conspiracy theory, it is utterly untenable, factually and conceptually; even if there weren't overwhelming documentary evidence demonstrating that foreign policy is determined by a mixture of pragmatic power politics and idealism, as well as by internal popular pressure, there would still remain the fact that, economically, war is not profitable; for every post-WWII booms, there are post-WWI depressions. In addition, America spends fairly consistently on defense, and the companies producing tanks, planes, ships, guns, and so on are not struggling for profitability.

The sort of reductive logic responsible for this theory, which suggests that there are fat-cat white men who think nothing of starting a war to make extra money (the lynchpin of conspiracy theory, and not true), has also produced the more contemporary, and quite popular fantasy of a Prison-Industrial Complex.