Arms manufacturers in Ecstasy
November 14, 2006
Arms manufacturers live in a different moral universe from the rest of us.
Helped greatly by the Bush Administration, U.S. weapons manufacturers amassed a grand total of $21 billion from September 2005 to September 2006 in sales to other countries, twice the amount of the previous 12 months.
This wasn’t exactly a case of the much-vaunted free market at work.
Policy changes made by the Bush folks assisted in enriching the coffers of Lockheed Martin and the rest of the gang. The Bush people opened up enormous new markets for arms peddling by lifting bans or restrictions in recent years on previously proscribed countries, most notably India and Pakistan. Pakistan responded by buying $5 billion worth of F-16 jets from Lockheed Martin. India, for its part, is aiming to place an order of 126 jets, with American corporations salivating at the prospect of being chosen for the largesse.
The lone discordant voice in a recent New York Times piece on the weapons industry’s bloated coffers was William Hartung of the World Policy Institute, a group that has done invaluable research on the subject. In June 2005, the organization issued a report on U.S. weapons sales.
“U.S. arms transfers end up fueling conflict, arming human rights abusers, or falling into the hands of U.S. adversaries,” the report stated. “As in the case of recent decisions to provide new F-16 fighter planes to Pakistan, while pledging comparable high-tech military hardware to its rival India, U.S. arms sometimes go to both sides in long-brewing conflicts, ratcheting up tensions and giving both sides better firepower with which to threaten each other. Far from serving as a force for security and stability, U.S. weapons sales frequently serve to empower unstable, undemocratic regimes to the detriment of U.S. and global security.”
Why should industry types worry about all this? All they are looking at is the bottom line, and they are ecstatic.
“It’s another arrow in the quiver of military contractors,” says Howard Rubel, an analyst.
The cost that people in developing countries pay for such “arrows” is immense, however.
Take India, for instance. According to another recent New York Times article, India is the largest weapons importer in the developing world, spending $5.4 billion last year (the reason that U.S. weapons manufacturers are drooling).
This disgorging of money helped make India the third-largest defense spender in the world, with the country shelling out $105.8 billion in 2005, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
Coincidentally, the U.N. Development Program released its annual Human Development Report a few days ago, and India doesn’t rank quite so high there, notching a lowly 126 out of 177 countries. Even though half its children are malnourished and more than one-fifth drop out before the fifth grade, India spends a woefully inadequate amount on health and education. As with many other nations, its arms procurements from abroad are often guided not by security considerations but by astoundingly large kickbacks that arms dealers award to top politicians and generals.
Not surprisingly, there have been multiple weapons procurement scandals over the past few decades.
But what do military contractors care as long as they are raking in the dough?