In light of the intense discussion and bipartisan hysteria over impending gun regulation in the wake of America’s latest mass shooting there has been no mention of America as the world’s largest purveyor of arms.
Between them, the White House and the Pentagon — with a helping hand from the State Department – ensure that the U.S. remains by far the leading purveyor of the “right to bear arms” globally. Year in, year out, in countries around the world, they do their best to pave the way (as the NRA does domestically) for the almost unfettered sales of ever more lethal weapons. In fact, the U.S. now has something remarkably close to a monopoly on what’s politely called the “transfer” of weaponry on a global scale. In 1990, as the Cold War was ending, the U.S. had cornered an impressive 37% of the global weapons trade. By 2011, the last year for which we have figures, that percentagehad reached a near-monopolistic 78% ($66.3 billion in weapons sales), with the Russians coming in a distant second at 5.6% ($4.8 billion).
Mark the irony of this administration’s current rhetoric on American gun control versus the reality of how they deal with the rest of the globe.
Here’s the strange thing in the present gun control context: no one — not pundits, politicians, or reporters — seems to see the slightest contradiction in an administration that calls for legal limits on advanced weaponry in the U.S. and yet (as rare press reports indicate) is working assiduously to remove barriers to the sale of advanced weaponry overseas. There are, of course, still limits on arms sales abroad, some imposed by Congress, some for obvious reasons. The Pentagon does not broker weapons sales to Iran, North Korea, or Cuba, and it has, for example, been prohibited by Congress from selling them to the military regime in Myanmar. But generally the Obama administration has put effort into further easing the way for major arms sales abroad, while working to rewrite global export rules to make them ever more permeable.
In other words, the Pentagon is the largest federally licensed weapons dealer on the planet and its goal — one that the NRA might envy — is to create a world in which the rights of those deemed our allies to bear our (most advanced) armaments “shall not be infringed.” The Pentagon, it seems, is intent on pursuing its own global version of the Second Amendment, not for citizens of the world but for governments, including grim, autocratic states like Saudi Arabia which are perfectly capable of using such weaponry to create Newtowns on an unimaginable scale.
This is one of many serious discussions the American people aren’t having amidst the current sound and fury in the aftermath of Sandyhook. Maybe it’s time to broaden our perspective regarding who we are as a people and the arms policies we sanction through our government.
Excerpts taken from The Pentagon as a Global NRA
For Washington, There Is No Arms Control Abroad by Tom Engelhardt.