One of many naive takes on political economy is to assume largely-altruistic motives among agents (politicians, bureaucrats, interest groups). Business is profit-max in the private sector, but wouldn't pursue the same in the public sector. Scientists and those in the military sector are altruists when it comes to policy. And so on.
Here, Cockburn reminds us about the self-seeking in promoting inefficient weapons systems (one might add inefficient military bases) before focusing on the value of "scares" for the military in general (pun intended) and Hillary Clinton in particular (her claims about the Russians and her emails as a useful deflection).