The recent announcement of a nearly $30 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia was hailed as a hedge against Iranian aggression and as a job creator in the United States. The sale is part of a $60 billion deal over ten years. 84 F-155A fighter jets will be sold in the current deal and 70 F-15 jets now in Saudi Arabia will be refurbished. The Obama administration is estimating the creation of 50,000 jobs as a result of the sale.
Also in the news is the Pentagon’s consideration of the sale of “bunker buster” bombs and other munitions to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). What possible need would the UAE have for a “bunker buster,” except for an implied threat that the UAE will bomb Iran’s underground nuclear facilities if attacked by Iran?
One thing I have not been able to find in the mainstream media’s coverage of these sales is the consensus conclusion of economists who study job creation that military spending is the worst way to create jobs through government spending. Also absent is any mention of President Eisenhower’s warning about the aiding and abetting of the military-industrial complex.
On the receiving end, those countries to whom we sell arms are compelled thereby to increase the proportion of their resources devoted to the military. We thus help to impoverish these countries. During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union used arms sales to bring the recipient countries to their respective sides in the ideological struggle for world supremacy.
Since the demise of the Soviet Union, the United States has assumed the world lead in arms sales by a big margin. In 2008, the U.S. with $37.8 billion in arms sales controlled 68.4 percent of the global arms market. Italy came in a distant second with $3.7 billion. In sales to “developing nations,” the U.S. controlled 70.1 percent of the market; Russia was far back in second with a 7.8 percent market share.
Since 1970, nearly half of U.S. arms sales have gone to an area containing about one-fifth of the world’s population. Sales to the Near East and South Asia go to countries where the leaders are heavily armed and the people have little say in the election of their leaders. So in addition to distributing weapons of war more widely in the world, the United States is tarnishing any image it wishes to present as expanding the reach of representative government in the world.
Those who voted for Barack Obama for president, at least in part because he would reduce the prevalence of military arms in the world, should find his embrace of arms sales as yet another reason to be disappointed in his presidency.