An investigation of international trade in armaments since 1945, its workings and effects. Fundamental causes of the growth in weapons sales and the defense industry per se are incidental topics. The approach is journalistic. The subject matter tends to lose its ominous overtones as the underpinnings of this ""business"" gain intrinsic fascination. The splendidly researched story of Interarms is perhaps the most fascinating part of the book--Interarms being the company which controls nine-tenths of the world's private arms market. Sales by governments take on the same kind of detached interest as Thayer explains different ways of making deals and financing them. There are plenty of lurid sidelights, to be sure, like the Far East gunrunning traffic which is dominated by the CIA, or Soviet sales to South Africa and Indonesian anti-communists. And though dispassionate, Thayer is far from uncritical. Insisting that without a big volume of arms, none of the current ""small wars"" would be possible, he argues that U.S. weapons policy fails to achieve its goal of strengthening allies; uses the amoral aim of shoring up the balance of payments as a rationalization for ""really unsavory"" goals; creates its own competition, and ultimately ""the seeds of its own destruction."" He concludes that about two hundred people direct the total world trade and ""They are for all practical purposes beyond anyone's control."" . . . As Thayer points out, the proliferation of conventional weapons is a neglected topic (with the exception of studies on U.S. sales to Latin America, to which Thayer gives short shrift). Hence, this seems an especially useful book. Thayer also wrote The Farther Shores of Politics.