How can the U.N. champion peace while being the leading supplier of arms around the world – specifically the third world?
Ironically, the five permanent members of the United Nation’s Security Council are the largest arms dealers, with the exception of China who sometimes ranks lower than Germany who is not a part of those members (let us not be hasty in letting China off the hook; most of its arm sales support and perpetuate the conflicts in Sudan, Libya, and the Democratic Republic of Congo). The United States makes up 44 percent of the total sales of military arms, with Russia coming in second at 17%. France and UK are under 10% each; and China, Germany, and Italy are responsible for under 5% each of the total worldwide sale of arms.
The amount of arms sales has continued to increase since the year 2004, when it was 51 billion dollars until a recent 2011 report of $85 billion. The only decrease was in 2010 to $44 billion. In more irony, most sales are made to developing countries, specifically India and Saudi Arabia, which tends to skew the numbers making them higher than the actual market warrants. Recent declines in arm sales by most of the other nations are a reflection in the higher cost of oil, which has forced nations to curtail new weapons acquisition.
In full on irony, the United States became the prime supplier to Middle Eastern countries after the 1991 Persian Gulf war. The ten developing nations that account for 61% of arms purchases between 2004 and 2011 are Saudi Arabia ($76 billion); India ($47 billion); United Arab Emirates ($20 bill); Egypt ($14 bill); Pakistan & Venezuela ($13 bill); Brazil ($11B); Algeria ($10B); Israel ($9.5B); and South Korea ($9B). Arms sales include: tanks, self-propelled guns, artillery, aircraft carriers & cruisers, motor torpedo and gun boats, submarines, guided missile patrol boats, bomber aircraft, helicopters, surface to air / surface to surface missiles, and anti-ship missiles such as the harpoon, just to name a few.
Apparently there is a direct correlation between the globalization of trade and arm sales. Wealthy nations utilize their ability to invest in arms to create laws and loopholes that exempt military spending from many of the free trade and investment agreements. This allow new markets to be created so arms corporations and contractors can continue to profit. To ensure profits, arms are often sold to known human rights violators.
The irony never ends. After the September 11th crisis, arms sales by the United States did not neutralize or decrease, but instead went up. A significant number of countries who were denied weapons in the past are now actually eligible to receive military aid if they pledge assistance in the global war on terror. This has included the U.S. selling weapons or training to almost 90% of the countries it has identified as harboring terrorists; how’s that for security breach?
Is it really okay for the Norwegian, German or Latvian companies that manufacture landmine parts to then be part of (and make money off of) the clean up of bodies and lands that are devastated by the detonation of those same devices? We could go on and on about the corruption in government that promotes arms sales, such as bribes, military spending and policy shaping influence, and the oppression of the people in highly militarized areas, but that will not do us any good. The HUGE question now is: what is the solution?
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Champion Peace While Supplying Weapons: How Does That Work?*