Weapon production and sales

The United States sells weapons to foreign countries, and, as described in this NY Times article, the Bush administration is currently pushing through new deals resulting in a sharp increase in sales. Now, I was aware that the U. S. sells arms, but I was not quite aware of the extent of it:

From tanks, helicopters and fighter jets to missiles, remotely piloted aircraft and even warships, the Department of Defense has agreed so far this fiscal year to sell or transfer more than $32 billion in weapons and other military equipment to foreign governments, compared with $12 billion in 2005.

There are so many things wrong about this I am not sure where to begin. It’s not that I think the U. S. should get to have weapons while other countries don’t, it’s that we should not be building these weapons to begin with. Neither for ourselves nor for other countries. This is NOT the way to create a secure world, as one person involved in the sales seems to think:

“This is not about being gunrunners,” said Bruce S. Lemkin, the Air Force deputy under secretary who is helping to coordinate many of the biggest sales. “This is about building a more secure world.”

Knowledge that you can blow up your enemies is not security. Security is having the knowledge that nobody is going to try to blow up anybody, and that differences will be resolved peacefully. Why do other countries want new weapons from the U. S.? Well, probably in large part because the U. S. has them. Other countries understandably want to keep up with the big powers in terms of weapons, because these big powers (the U. S. and Russia, primarily) have demonstrated that they are willing to go on the offensive. We may think that we are selling the weapons to our “allies” but there is a very good chance those same weapons will someday be used against the U. S., as has happened before:

Arms sales have had unintended consequences before, as when the United States armed militants fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan, only to eventually confront hostile Taliban fighters armed with the same weapons there.

When this happens, what does the U. S. likely do? Build bigger and better weapons, of course. The mass production and sale of weapons can only lead to a vicious and dangerous cycle of more and more potent weapons. Where will it end? In the mass destruction of the human race? This archaic approach to relations between nations needs to stop. There are far more productive ways to solve differences. But it will not stop as long as the U. S. continues to build weapons for themselves. Thus, the U. S. needs to stop not only selling weapons, but producing weapons, either for themselves or for other countries. We need to stop thinking in terms of enemies.

It is also horrifying that weapon sales is a major factor in our economy. That people make money off of weapon sales. How can they do this with a clear conscious? It is essentially making money off of, ultimately, people’s deaths. That’s right, do not ever forget that a weapon is meant to kill people. To take away, in one instant, many people’s lives. It is perhaps too easy for people to distance themselves from this fact, to see it as a purely economic transaction, to think of it as ensuring some abstract and false concept of “security.” Everyone, and particularly those most closely involved in weapon production and sales, needs to be reminded on a regular basis of the true impact of weapons. Perhaps then we will make progress towards eliminating them.


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