Chapter 0

About this Book

This introductory section tells why we wrote this guide and explains how to use it.

 

The State of Play

For a short while in 1991-92, it looked like things might change. Iraq's invasion of Kuwait had graphically demonstrated the dangers of a laissez-faire approach to surplus arms production and trading. Iraq had amassed one of the largest arsenals in the world from arms exporters in the East and West, and the subsequent war sparked more questioning of the legitimacy of the international arms trade than had been heard in decades. Editorial pages in papers across America-as well as in France, Russia, Britain and elsewhere-criticized the role that national governments had played in arming Saddam Hussein. Politicians in legislatures around the world spoke out against the dangers of commercially-driven, routine and secretive arms sales. And individual citizens and policy/activist organizations in many countries-including in the USA-began campaigning against the lethal trade.

Unfortunately, in the seven years since the Persian Gulf war (and the cold war) ended, the US government and other major arms exporting governments have apparently decided that no fundamental re-evaluation of the role of military force in international relations is advisable. Instead of placing greater emphasis on the rule of law and non-military diplomacy during the past decade, the United States and other key military powers have increased their reliance on military force through UN operations and/or regional alliances. Multilateral military operations, and the need for interoperable fighting forces, now provide one of the principal justifications for arms exporting and military training-by the United States in particular.

Leaders in America and in the other major arms exporting states have apparently decided that they can manage crises that erupt as a result of excess arms production and exporting (including diplomatic tensions among themselves, wars among importers, massive refugee flows and financial insolvency) better than they can manage the alternative. The alternative would involve challenging major arms corporations and labor unions by reining in domestic arms production; reducing reliance on arms trading as the principal diplomatic currency; and decreasing reliance on arms exports for perceived strategic gains. Since the arms producing governments have abdicated any medium- to long-term vision of alternative security, the public interest sector-comprising human rights, religious and other civic organizations and individual citizens-is left to challenge the interests of the large, powerful arms industry (see chapter 5) and much of the bureaucracy at the State, Commerce and Defense Departments (see chapter 3).

No other non-proliferation issue involves such formidable obstacles: No one openly lobbies for sales of nuclear missiles, for example. But article 51 of the UN Charter (which guarantees each country's right to self-defense), the concept of state sovereignty, the Nixon Doctrine (which says that the United States will send weapons instead of US soldiers to defend its allies) and jobs are all regularly invoked by a wide spectrum of people in the developed and developing world to justify arms trafficking.

In 1991 when the Gulf war ended and the time was ripe for a shift in policy, there were very few analysts or activists in the United States working against conventional arms proliferation. Seven years later there are more of us, but the community of advocates and researchers is still quite small (see chapter 7).

 

Wild Successes

All of this is not meant to convey a feeling of despair or powerlessness. Far from it. This book is optimistic and is intended to empower activists and researchers and increase action and output.

Already, activists and activist organizations have made a tremendous difference-most notably in the area of anti-personnel landmines. The research, media and organizing work on this issue has been phenomenal, first in putting the issue on the map, then in forcing governments of the world to stop exporting mines, then in pressuring them to negotiate a treaty banning stockpiling and use of mines, and finally in forging the so-called new diplomacy-where civil society leads the way and governments follow. Persistent and creative work by the US Campaign to Ban Landmines caused the Clinton administration to take part in the Canadian-led mine ban negotiations in 1997-a decision that only six months prior appeared impossible. Unfortunately, the administration withdrew from the talks and did not sign the treaty when it was completed in December. It is clear, however, that the United States will join the more than 125 states which have signed the treaty in the near future.

We have also come a great distance in our efforts to establish a Code of Conduct for US arms exporting which places human rights, democracy and non-aggression at the center of arms sales decision-making. The Arms Transfers Working Group succeeded in adding the measure to the State Department authorizing bill in the House of Representatives in June 1997. Although the provision was eventually dropped by a House-Senate conference committee, the idea has become so mainstream that the arms industry is now on the defensive in opposing it. The New York Times, meanwhile, has editorialized in support of the measure, calling the Code an entirely sensible idea.

There have been many other successes, as well, which are highlighted in chapter 6, along with lessons learned from these efforts. These achievements were all enabled by citizen activists working at the grassroots level, through letter-writing campaigns, phone calls to elected officials and demonstrations and protests around the country.

 

Truth in Advertising

Although this book is titled The Arms Trade Revealed, it really reveals the United States' role in the global arms trade. You will find nothing here about Chinese or Russian or French export policies and practices. Moreover, this book is concerned only with legal US arms exporting. For insight into gun smuggling from the United States to Mexico and the Caribbean, for example, you must turn elsewhere.

Clearly, the United States is not the only government shipping weapons to repressive regimes or to places where most people live on annual incomes in the low hundreds of dollars. We single out America's role in the often-deadly, often-wasteful trade for two reasons: first, the United States is the source of half of all weapons exports in the 1990s; and second, we (the authors) are American.

By and large, we assume that users of this book are already concerned about (or at least interested in) the United States' role in the global arms trade. You will not find a lot by way of persuasion here. (We list several good persuasive books on p. 121 if you accidentally bought this book looking for persuasion.) Rather, this primer guides the reader through the policy-making process that works to rationalize and routinize American arms trafficking. Our purpose in writing this manual is to empower you to take on the "experts" about US military aid and to encourage greater activism against dangerous and wasteful US policies.

In our work with local activist groups and journalists we have answered many of the same questions several times over concerning the legislative process, the pulses of decision making power on arms trade policy, sources of information and so on. As a result, we decided to pull this information together into a pragmatic "how to" handbook. This guide is designed to make communication with elected officials easier and more effective by providing in one place all of the necessary enabling information.

 

How to Use this Book

Do not try reading this book cover to cover; you'll never make it. There's no plot and very little character development.

We have tried to make each chapter more or less self-contained. However, we wrote this guide with three audiences in mind: activist citizen coalitions, investigators (journalistic, congressional and/or academic) and policy professors/students. Serving the needs of these three distinct constituencies in one book presents certain challenges. For some audiences there might be too much detail; for others not enough. Hopefully the layout will make it easy for readers to find points of interest by browsing and skimming the text.

Chapters 1-6 are thematic, covering a particular aspect of US policy-making. If you are interested in understanding the various arms export and aid programs, consult chapter 1. If you are looking for rebuttal to a particular rationale or justification you have heard in support of weapons trafficking, see chapter 2. Chapter 3 covers the executive branch, and chapter 4 Congress. Chapter 5 focuses on researching the arms manufacturers. Chapter 6 highlights activist campaigns and strategies. Resources are listed throughout the book, but chapter 7 is all about finding information on US exports of weapons and military training.

People advised us to produce this guide in a loose-leaf binder format, since names and addresses will go out of date regularly. Indeed, during the time that we worked on this guide, we checked and changed contact information for certain positions several times. Nevertheless, we knew that we could not commit to providing regular updates on an on-going basis, and so we decided to publish the information in a bound book, rather than loose-leaf. While the phone numbers and individuals occupying positions will change, we have described the institutional framework that makes arms export policy in the United States. This framework will likely endure. In addition, we have provided general public affairs contact phone numbers so that readers can identify the personnel who subsequently fill the positions that we describe in the book.

 


Market Trends

With the end of the cold war, governments are buying less weaponry from their arms manufacturers than in previous years, resulting in excess arms industry capacity. US weapons manufactures seek to keep as many cold war-era production lines open as possible by selling arms abroad.

The end of the cold war also left many countries with large holdings of surplus weaponry. Between 1990-95, the United States exported an estimated $7 billion of surplus arms, including nearly 4,000 tanks, 125 attack helicopters, over 500 bombers and more than 200,000 pistols and rifles. In most cases, the US military gave the equipment away, in the theory that this will strengthen bilateral relations.

These surplus weapon giveaways combined with excess production capacity have created a more commercially driven arms bazaar than ever. One result is that top-of-the-line systems previously not for salesuch as American F-15 bombers and supersonic, anti-ship missileshave been placed on the market. The Director of US Naval Intelligence testified in 1994 that the overall technical threat and lethality of arms...being exported have never been higher.

In addition, buyers frequently demand the technology to produce weapons, instead of simply buying the weapons off the shelf. Manufacturers are granting licenses to recipient countries to produce parts or entire weapons systems. This practice not only exports US jobs abroad, but will also result in an even greater global surplus of weapons production.

Declining dollar volume data about the arms trade overlooks the impact of the trade in cheap, light weapons-like automatic rifles and grenade launchers. These man-portable weapons are a staple of every conflict and are thought to be responsible for most combat-related deaths. Massive stocks of such weapons transferred to conflict zones in the 1980s are now being re-circulated around southern and eastern Africa, South Asia and Central America.

The buyers' market has also resulted in less careful scrutiny of arms purchasers. The principal customers at the arms bazaar, as during the cold war, continue to be in the developing world. In the past five years, 60-70 percent of all arms transfers (measured in dollar volume) have gone to the worlds poorer countries, with the vast majority going to non-democratic or repressive governments.

 


Acknowledgments

When we began this project-several years ago-we asked a couple dozen savvy activists from across the country for input on the parameters and structure of the book. Now we would like to express our deep appreciation to Wilda Luttermoser (of Redmond, WA), Ed Feder (of New York, NY), Virginia Nesmith and Maryann McGivern (of St. Louis), Lynn Cheatum (of Kansas City), Erica Harrold (of San Francisco), Deb Sawyer and Peggy Christensen (of Salt Lake City), Dave Hedgepeth (formerly of Nashville and lately of Park City, UT), Pat Stotland (of Seattle), Susan R. Gordon (of Salem, OR), Fran Teplitz (of DC), Al Marder (of New Haven, CT), Nancy Andrews (of Golden, CO), Peter Hickey (of Chicago), Bob Moore (of Princeton, NJ) and Barbara Markoff (of Milwaukee) for their advice. More generally, we thank and admire them for caring about people in far off places whom they do not know, and for understanding that-in a democracy-we all share responsibility for the actions of our government.

We are also grateful to Paul F. Pineo, a former associate with the Arms Sales Monitoring Project during 1993-96, who drafted early versions of several of the chapters. Tamar Gabelnick, who will be directing the Arms Sales Monitoring Project while Lora Lumpe is on leave, gave the book a careful critique. Samar Shams, an energetic research intern with the Project during the summer of 1998, provided helpful comments and last-minute fact-checking. And Carolyn Kostka is responsible for the beautiful layout of this book.

We benefitted from having four extraordinarily effective activist-scholars read through the manuscript at various stages. Thanks to Glen Gersmehl, Bill Hartung, Michael Klare and Steve Rickard for their useful comments and encouragement.

Finally, we appreciate the following philanthropies and philanthropists for their financial and moral support during the several years that we worked on this book and other projects: Compton Foundation, Inc., HKH Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Ploughshares Fund, Samuel Rubin Foundation, Margaret Spanel, Town Creek Foundation and Winston Foundation for World Peace.