i maintain that, generally, the biggest political initiatives are seen when the interests of big, politically-connected corporations intersect the interests of government. those interests are, again generally, profits for the corporation and power for the government. of course, there is cross-over, but it's a good, general guideline.
politically-connected corporations fund political campaigns, getting politicians the power they crave, and, in return, politicians line those company's coffers, either directly or indirectly. some of the biggest funders of political campaigns are the corporations of the military-industrial complex (MIC): the companies who make money building and selling weapons systems to the government's military and big banks, who fund war. all of the u.s.'s various unnecessary wars have been great profit-makers for MIC and the big banks who fund them. they have also been great power-grabs for the government. war is the kind of big political initiative you can expect to see from a confluence of corporate/government interest. but a war every decade isn't much considering that the u.s. government can simply start a war whenever they want.
MIC corps and big banks are not going to pay for political campaigns if they can't make money doing it. politicians aren't going to push for huge military budgets and war-making if they aren't going to have their campaigns funded. so, in the 1950s, after stumbling upon the gold-mine of soviet communism, a great innovation in war-making appeared: the sustainable, permanent war. the rising soviet union was the perfect enemy for a new war. the problem was that shooting wars weary a country's people and resources while the threat of an evil and capable enemy was just as good at scaring people as actual flying bullets. all governments really need to do is scare their citizens in order to justify huge military budgets.
the cold war was born. power-grabbing politicians were happy, MIC corporations were happy (the big banks were a much smaller part of the cold war, but they had
become more focused on the easier money of the fractional reserve
system) and on the other side of the world, things were working out just as well for the soviets. brilliant! problem solved!
unfortunately for all parties involved, no one understood economics well enough to realize that communism was doomed from the start. the sustainable, permanent war was not as sustainable as was previously believed.
so, when the soviet union collapsed in 1991, the party was over. but there was too much power and money to be had in the idea of the sustainable, permanent war.
enter: the war on terror.
the war on terror has brilliantly solved all of the problems of the cold war. it scares citizens, it allows for huge military budgets, and it gives governments the excuses necessary to grab power, but it improves on the original cold war in key ways: 1) it is well-known and has been well-known for decades that intervention in the affairs of foreign countries who lack the wherewithal to stage a shooting war against a superpower inevitably results in terror attacks. so, the more foreign intervention there is, the more terror attacks one can expect, thus creating an endless cycle of permanent, sustainable war. 2) where the big banks may have been lost in the cold war, they are replaced by big oil companies in the war on terror, who have great interest in the oil resources of the middle east. 3) war tends to hurt economies as resources are wasted. thanks to the domination of john maynard keynes' economic theories, when the economy wanes, he says, it is best to print money through the fractional reserve banking system. this brings the big banks back into the fold.
so the war on terror provides a truly permanent, sustainable war, is a boon for the MIC as well as big oil and the big banks (all three of the big campaign financiers - a huge win) and provides the best known way for government to extend its power both at home and imperially. the system has worked very well despite the lack of recent terror attacks. it appears that the above-named political establishment assumed that there would be more attacks (a reasonable assumption) because of the "slips" heard occasionally in the media from politicians (like hillary clinton or newt gingrich) lamenting the lack of attacks or opining that there should be a new attack, or that it would be a net positive to stage an attack.
regardless, the war on terror has been a brilliant ploy that has made good money for politically established corporations in all three of the biggest campaign-funding sectors as well as an unprecedented enabler of government power-grabbing.
it is great example of how to think like a politician.