As the NY Times reports, based on arms-tracking evidence supplied by Conflict Armament Research, much of the ammunition now being used by ISIS militants in Syria and Iraq originated in three countries: the United States, China and the Soviet Union/Russia, three of the leading nations in the United Nations Security Council. The director of CAR, James Bevan, pointed out the obvious to the NY Times’ reporter–
“The lesson learned here is that the defense and security forces that have been supplied ammunition by external nations really don’t have the capacity to maintain custody of that ammunition.”
Here’s another lesson: selling arms around the world is likely to come back to haunt you. Which is precisely why throwing more weapons and ammunition into the Middle East is, to say the least, counterproductive, and why the plan to arm the Syrian rebels the U.S. approves of to fight ISIS is a bad idea. The U.S. defense industry and its Congressional lobbyists (and similar industries in other nations) help to perpetuate the cycle of war and profit: weaponry sold around the world creates more war which creates more weaponry which creates more profit and more war.
Defenders of arms sales like to say that we can’t blame the weapons: missiles don’t kill people, people do, etc., and what about the jobs it creates? But, of course, increasing the technological killing power does make widespread killing more likely, and the more military weapons there are in the world the more likely they will be used, either by the nation doing the buying or by the terrorists doing the stealing or black market buying. Not to mention the fantastic public expense of developing and building the weapons, a vast public investment which serves to bolster the profits of the war industry.
And it isn’t just the proliferation of conventional weapons that we have to worry about. The U.S. is investing more than a trillion dollars over the next 30 years to update its nuclear arsenal and nuclear weapon delivery systems. Rather than cutting back on our nuclear weapons, as President Obama has negotiated for and urged in the past, we are now back in the nuclear arms race business, while reducing funds to make sure nuclear weapons do not wind up in the wrong hands.
So far, we have yet to seriously heed President Dwight Eisenhower’s warning about the power of the “military-industrial complex”, which has only grown more powerful since he left office back in 1961. Disarmament, Eisenhower said, was the ultimate goal:
“Disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence, is a continuing imperative. Together we must learn how to compose differences, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose. Because this need is so sharp and apparent I confess that I lay down my official responsibilities in this field with a definite sense of disappointment. As one who has witnessed the horror and the lingering sadness of war — as one who knows that another war could utterly destroy this civilization which has been so slowly and painfully built over thousands of years — I wish I could say tonight that a lasting peace is in sight.”
We are still going in the wrong direction, for what we seem to have created is lasting war and war-profiteering.
Postscript: For a good accounting of all our recent war spending, see this piece from the Win Without War website.