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The vicious cycle of arms sales

May 2, 2013, at 3:40 PM
 

The proliferation paradox bothers me. It always has. I am supposed to know that security assistance and diplomacy are too complex to reduce to a simple BuzzFeed-like listicle, and yet, my brain keeps coming back to this sequence of events:

1. The U.S. helps a country by covertly sending arms, or by covertly coordinating arms shipments from others.

2. Those arms are either used for the purposes intended and then are discarded, stolen, or recovered by people who use them for different purposes. Whatever tracking, tagging and location mechanisms (tiny IED chips?) the U.S. uses to keep track on the arms don't work. 

3. If those arms are kept, the vagaries of U.S. foreign policy inevitably creates friction with these once-useful allies, turning them into enemies. (Syria used to be a stabilizing force; we used to render terrorism suspects to Syria, even innocent ones!, Syria's border with Israel was stable)

4. The U.S. sends CIA assets into the country to try and monitor and track its arms. In some cases, like in Libya post-NATO air strikes, the majority of CIA officers in the country are "vetting" rebel forces or tracking arms shipments.  

5. Arms manufactured and intended for use against U.S. enemies wind up being acquired by U.S. enemies.  In Libya. In Pakistan. In Afghanistan. In Somalia. In Syria.

6. Those arms wind up fueling the conflict the arms shipments were designed to even out. (Iraq.) In some cases, they flow from problem country (Libya) to problem country (Syria). 

7. Lessons not learned. Consider: "U.S. Weapons Now In Somali Terroirst Hands" (2011) v. "U.S Approves Sending Military Aid To Somalia (2014).

A vast oversimplifcation of a complicated problem? Yes. But we seem to think that the NEXT time we pursue this type of military diplomacy, we'll get it right. But we never really do. And conflicts seem to just recycle and feed off of U.S. decisions on "security assistance." The irony of most global conflicts we want to avoid (like India v. Pakistan) is that they'd likely be fought with weapons manufactured here and given to both countries openly and legally by the United States.

Or: U.S soldiers are killed by troops armed with guns and ammo given to them by the U.S. (Panama, Somalia, Pakistan...)

Kind of makes you want to believe in the conspiracy theories, doesn't it?

 

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