Published on Friday, December 12, 2008 by Inter Press Service
US Arms Deployed in Wars Around the Globe
by Ali Gharib
WASHINGTON - Pundits these days warn of a Middle East arms race if Iran brings its alleged nuclear weapons programme to fruition, while others fear that missile defence in Eastern Europe could spark escalation involving
But despite all the fear in Washington, it turns out that the U.S. need look no farther than its own shores to find the greatest single source of weapons proliferation around the globe.
It's the U.S, according to a new report from the New
From escalating hostilities to encouraging human rights abuses, these arms deals have a plethora of potential negative effects.
"Arms transfers can serve as a U.S. government 'seal of approval' for governments engaged in unacceptable behavior, not to mention being used as tools of internal repression and instruments of warfare with neighboring states," said the report.
But with a change of administration rapidly approaching, and President-elect Barack Obama ready to take the helm of government, the
"We are at another moment when we can reevaluate what our role [ought to be]," said the director of New America's Arms and Security Initiative, William Hartung, during a press conference on the report Wednesday.
The last shift, said Hartung, came under outgoing Pres. George W. Bush, who "subsumed [the arms trade] under the global war on terror" so that if a country could make the case of being an ally in the effort, it could get arms and perhaps even subsidies towards their purchase.
"As the size, scope, and sophistication of U.S. transfers has increased during the Bush administration, so have the risks," says the report, especially in the developing world, where most violent conflicts occur and where the U.S. does billions in sales.
While arms sales are usually thought of as a defensive or preventative matter -- lopsided support by the world's preeminent military power should clearly be a deterrent -- the fact of the matter is that
One of the risks is that the sale of arms remains "relatively unregulated," according to Hartung, who noted the hypocrisy of regulating chemical and biological weapons, but not small arms.
It is, after all, traditional weapons that are used "day-to-day" in conflicts, said Hartung.
"Small arms and light weapons have a more immediate impact" due to the ability to inject them into a conflict and have them spread quickly because they are small, light, and cheap, said Hartung.
In the past two years for which figures are available, 2006 and 2007, three of the top four largest
Saudi Arabia acquired 2.5 billion dollars worth of U.S. arms, with
And while weapons often go to
"Politically, arms and training can be used as leverage for everything from gaining preferential access to oil and other strategic resources to persuading other countries to vote with the United States in international and regional bodies like the United Nations and the Organization of American States," said the report.
Hartung, at the conference for the report, emphasised the point. "Each of these deals has its own logic," he said. Some deals are based on
But, said Hartung, "human rights concerns have gotten pushed aside for these [various logics]," noting that 13 of the top 25
"There is less concern in policymaking circles about the negative impacts of arms sales, from fueling conflict to enabling major human rights abuses," said the report.
Hartung noted that human rights issues needn't be a deal-breaker for military support and arms deals, but rather it just needs to be a more prominent, legitimate consideration. Though he does point out, as does the report, that it is actually meant to be a deal-breaker, according to the
"In the case of the
With the Bush administration in a lame-duck lull, the report makes a series of recommendations to the incoming Obama administration.
It should, says the report, create a clear policy directive for arms transfers within the first six months in office; return the State Department to its former lead (or at least equal) role in foreign assistance, in contrast to the Bush policy of empowering the Department of Defence to make these decisions at the expense of State; and "endorse and/or ratify key international initiatives" that regulate arms in warfare and the global arms trade.
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs