Posted by Amitabh Pal on September 01, 2012

The United States is harming the world through its burgeoning arms trade portfolio.

A new report shows an eye-popping increase in the amount U.S. weapons manufacturers are raking in.

“Weapons sales by the United States tripled in 2011 to a record high, driven by major arms sales to Persian Gulf allies concerned about Iran’s regional ambitions, according to a new study for Congress,” the New York Times reports. The United States now accounts for “more than three-quarters of the global arms market, valued at $85.3 billion in 2011.”

Blaming this on Iran is facile.

The Saudi “purchase is several times the size of Iran's entire defense budget,” writes Joshua Keating for Foreign Policy. “Put it another way, that purchase alone would give Saudi Arabia the world's eleventh highest military spending.”

Plus, sales like these tie the United States more closely (as if oil wasn’t enough of an adhesive) to an absolutist medieval theocracy that is also the fountainhead of Wahhabism, the hardline variant of Islam that has spawned Al Qaida. How are we ever going to seem sincere about human rights and religious tolerance if we attach ourselves to a regime that is defined by the absence of both?

The two other big purchasers of U.S. weapons in the region—the United Arab Emirates and Oman—also have deeply problematic records on civil liberties and political freedoms.

And the damage that the United States is causing goes far beyond the Middle East.

“Other significant weapons deals by the United States last year included a $4.1 billion agreement with India for 10 C-17 transport planes and with Taiwan for Patriot antimissile batteries valued at $2 billion—an arms deal that outraged officials in Beijing,” says the New York Times.

This single sentence contains so much information about the harm engendered by U.S. arms sales that it needs to be split up for analysis.

First, let us take the India portion. India is buying weapons to aim at China and Pakistan (and Pakistan is also buying U.S. weapons to aim at India!). Instead of advising India to spend its money on fulfilling the basic social needs of its citizens, the United States is profiting from its delusions about India emerging as a rival power to China.

And speaking of China, we come to the second part of the sentence. Selling arms to Taiwan is not exactly the best way to put U.S.-China relations on an even keel. And it’s becoming increasingly obvious that the U.S. penchant for roiling troubled waters isn’t even due to geopolitical calculations. It’s to a large extent driven by something worse.

“Whereas the principal motivation for arms sales by key foreign suppliers in earlier years might have been to support a foreign policy objective, today that motivation may be based as much, if not more, on economic considerations as those of foreign or national security policy,” the Congressional study says.

Crass mercenary incentives should not cause the United States to destabilize the planet.

The flag is following the arms trade into the cemetery.

If you liked this article by Amitabh Pal, the managing editor of the Progressive magazine, please check out his article entitled "Elliott Abrams and Bernard Lewis Tutor Paul Ryan."

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