Published on Wednesday, February 17, 2010 by TomDispatch.com
’s Global Weapons Monopoly Don’t Call It “the Global Arms Trade” America
On the relatively rare occasions when the media turns its attention to
Let's consider that label for a moment, word by word:
*It is global, since there are few places on the planet that lie beyond the reach of the weapons industry.
*Arms sounds so old-fashioned and anodyne when what we're talking about is advanced technology designed to kill and maim.
*And trade suggests a give and take among many parties when, if we're looking at the figures for that "trade" in a clear-eyed way, there is really just one seller and so many buyers.
How about updating it this way: "the global weapons monopoly."
In 2008, according to an authoritative report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS), $55.2 billion in weapons deals were concluded worldwide. Of that total, the
Consider the "competition" and reality comes into focus. Take a guess on which country is the number two weapons exporter on the planet:
U.S. weapons manufacturers have come a long way, baby, since those Cold War days when the
Since then, the global appetite for weapons has only grown more voracious, while the number of purveyors has shrunk to the point where the Pentagon could hang out a sign: "We arm the world." No kidding, it's true.
Cambodia ($304,000), Comoros ($895,000), Colombia ($256 million), Guinea ($200,000), Greece ($225 million), Great Britain ($1.1 billion), the Philippines ($72.9 million), Poland ($79.8 million), and Peru ($16.4 million) all buy U.S. arms, as does almost every country not in that list. U.S. weapons, and only U.S. weapons, are coveted by presidents and prime ministers, generals and strongmen.
From the Pentagon's own data  (which differs from that in the CRS report), here are the top ten nations which made Foreign Military Sales agreements with the Pentagon, and so with
Japan $840 million
That's more than $17 billion in weapons right there. Some of these countries are consistently eager buyers, and some are not. Morocco , for example, is only in that top-ten list because it was green-lighted to buy 24 of Lockheed Martin's F-16 fighter planes at $360 million (or so) for each aircraft, an expensive one-shot deal. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia  (which inked $14.71 billion in weapons agreements between 2001 and 2008), Egypt  ($13.25 billion) and Israel  ($11.27 billion) are such regular customers that they should have the equivalent of one of those "buy 10, get the 11th free" punch cards doled out by your favorite coffee shop.
To sum up, the
Getting Even More Competitive?
It used to be that the
The Obama administration now wants to launch a green manufacturing revolution  in the U.S., and in February, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke announced a new "National Export Initiative"  with the aim of doubling American exports, a move he said would support the creation of two million new jobs. The
Don't for a second think that the American global monopoly on weapons sales is accidental or unintentional. The constant and lucrative growth of this market for
How do you improve on near perfection? In the interest of enhancing that "competitive" edge in weapons sales, the Obama administration is investigating  the possibility of revising export laws to make it even easier to sell military technology abroad. As Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morell explained in January, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates wants to see "wholesale changes to the rules and regulations on government technology exports" in the name of "competitiveness."
When he says "government technology exports," Morell of course means weapons and other military technologies. "Tinkering with our antiquated, bureaucratic, overly cumbersome system is not enough to maintain our competitiveness in the global economy and also help our friends and allies buy the equipment they need to contribute to global security," he continued, "[Gates] strongly supports the administration's efforts to completely reform our export control regime, starting ideally with a blank sheet of paper."
The laws that regulate
Given what's being sold, these export controls are remarkably minimal in nature and are constantly under assault by the weapons industry. Bans on weapons sales to particular countries are regularly lifted through aggressive lobbying. (Indonesia , for example, was offered $50 million in weapons from 2006 to 2008 after an almost decade long congressional arms embargo.) The industry also works to relax controls on new technology exports to allies.
In addition to revising these export controls, the administration is looking at the issue of "dual-use" technologies. These are not weapons. They do not shoot or explode. Included are high-speed computer processors, surveillance and detection networks, and a host  of other complex and evolving technologies that could have military as well as civilian applications. This category might also include intangible items like cyber-entities or access to controlled web environments.
Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and other major weapons manufacturers have invested billions of dollars from the Pentagon's research and development budgets in exploring and perfecting such technologies, and now they are eager to sell them to foreign buyers along with the usual fighter planes, combat ships, and guided missiles. But the rules as they stand make this something less than a slam dunk. So the weapons industry and the Pentagon are arguing for "updating" the rules. If you translate updating as "loosening" the rules, then the
Weapons Sales are Red Hot
"What's Hot?" is the title of Vice Admiral Jeffrey Wieranga's blog entry  for January 4, 2010. Wieranga is the Director of the Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which is charged with overseeing weapons exports, and such pillow talk is evidently more than acceptable -- at least when it's about weapons sales. In fact, Wieranga could barely restrain himself that day, adding: "
As Wieranga went on to write, the Obama administration's new 2010/2011 budget allocates $6 billion in weaponry for Afghan Security Forces. The Afghans will actually get those weapons for free , but
It's not just
The year began with a bang when Wieranga's Agency announced that the Obama administration had decided to sell a nifty $6 billion  in weapons to
Other bonanzas on the horizon?
Such deals are staggering. They contribute more bang and blast to a world already bristling with particularly lethal weaponry. They are a striking American success story in a time filled with failures. Put in the lurid but everyday terms of a nation weaned on reality television, the Pentagon is pimping for the
Global arms trade? Send that one back to the Department of Euphemisms. Pimps and pushers with a lucrative global monopoly on a killing drug -- maybe that's the language we need. And maybe, just maybe, it's time to launch a "war on weapons."
Copyright 2010 Frida Berrigan
Frida Berrigan is a Senior Program Associate with the New
URL to article: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/02/17-0
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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