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June 23, 2012 10:43 AM   Subscribe

Why Is the U.S. Selling Billions in Weapons to Autocrats?
posted by AElfwine Evenstar (54 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
$
posted by Fizz at 10:45 AM on June 23, 2012 [15 favorites]


Influence.
posted by ethansr at 10:49 AM on June 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


some that struggled with human rights problems.

I don't mean to hit her, it's just that I've got poor impulse control.
posted by fatbird at 10:52 AM on June 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Seriously? Why is the government selling billions of dollars of weapons? Did you miss the billions of dollars part? What does the great United States have to lose if a bunch of brown people kill each other?
posted by KeSetAffinityThread at 10:55 AM on June 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oligarchy
posted by DU at 11:01 AM on June 23, 2012


Billions.
posted by TwelveTwo at 11:05 AM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Selling" is a hint and "Billions" is a clue.
posted by elwoodwiles at 11:07 AM on June 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Can't even make the "business is booming" joke since the article does it first. Bastards.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:07 AM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why are they selling billions in weapons to autocrats? Because millions would be too little and trillions too much! [rimshot]
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 11:10 AM on June 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


We have nothing else to sell them and we need the cash.
posted by humanfont at 11:10 AM on June 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Because war is the health of the state.
posted by gompa at 11:11 AM on June 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


So the Sovients won't!

(also the Billions)
posted by Artw at 11:34 AM on June 23, 2012


For extra LOLs - who is paying the billions?
posted by Artw at 11:34 AM on June 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Because when their extremist minions hijack airplanes and fly them into really tall buildings it bolsters defense spending.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 11:36 AM on June 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


"War is peace."
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:44 AM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is this one of those rhetorical questions or are you asking for serious
posted by shakespeherian at 11:47 AM on June 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Fizz succinctly put it best.
posted by arcticseal at 11:48 AM on June 23, 2012


Because the U.S. is trying to get rid of outdated or unused equipment that takes up space and money when it's no longer needed. They're selling that equipment to the areas it feels least likely to actually threaten the United States from abroad, because it's that or sell it to someone the U.S. actually feels threatened by, like China.

It's logical, but morally corrupt.

An alternative is not spending so goddamn much on weapons ourselves.
posted by Malice at 11:51 AM on June 23, 2012 [9 favorites]


It's worth noting that the U.S. Government is prohibited by law from profiting on arms sales. They have to be sold to other countries effectively at-cost, as far as the government is concerned. This is, in theory, ensure that arms sales are conducted for political reasons and not as an additional revenue source for the government, and to keep the government from becoming dependent on arms sales (as Russia is), to the point where it overwhelms political goals.

Of course, the underlying manufacturer of the systems makes as much on it as if they'd made an additional sale to the USG... draw your own conclusions.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:51 AM on June 23, 2012 [10 favorites]


Artw nailed it, there are an awful lot of autocrats who don't pay anywhere near full price for their weapons, largely it's simply U.S. tax payers paying U.S. companies to give away weapons.

There is an enormous component of this in the Euro crisis as well, basically Greece has promised to buy over 10 billion € worth of German and French fighters, boats, etc., but rather than simply canceling the orders and not building the hardware, the "bailouts" demand that the deals go forward.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:52 AM on June 23, 2012 [7 favorites]


Money money money money Money money money... money. Money money money money Money money, money, money (money money money).

Money money money money:
1) money
2) money
3) money

Money money money money-Money- money money money? Money money money money money money money money!

Professor Bill (Buck) Dollar
Mobil-Halliburton-Bechtel-Pfizer University
Reagan-Thatcher Chair of Anglo-American Thought
posted by larry_darrell at 12:00 PM on June 23, 2012 [8 favorites]


Its just a rumour that was spread around town
Somebody said that someone got filled in
For saying that people get killed in
The result of this shipbuilding

posted by Artw at 12:08 PM on June 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


A successful arms trader is amoral and sells to both sides with plenty of cover for himself.
posted by Renoroc at 12:22 PM on June 23, 2012


Trouble is, all the free and friendly little polities tend not to need so many fuck-off big tanks and guns.
posted by Abiezer at 12:44 PM on June 23, 2012


Aren't a lot of the sales from US arms companies, rather then from the US government directly? The government has to authorize the sales, but the money goes to arms companies, as far as I know, right?

In fact, it's often the US government itself spending the money, as "military aide", which we give these countries to buy our weapons. So it's a subsidy to our own weapons companies, along with all the other money we spend.
posted by delmoi at 12:46 PM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why did the sun rise in the east this morning?
posted by Apocryphon at 12:53 PM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Made in America
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:54 PM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


ethansr: "Influence."

Correct. The money is for chumps. The real wealth is the ability to control the military of states by locking them into weapons systems, which they would have anyway from someone else.
posted by stbalbach at 12:56 PM on June 23, 2012


Or, in the case of Pakistan, desperate hope that your complete lack of influence doesn't turn into something worse.
posted by Artw at 12:59 PM on June 23, 2012


The USA sells arms for the same reason as the UK, France, Russia, China, and any other nation able to do so. We're not special; this is a universal problem and needs to be addressed internationally.
posted by Justinian at 1:02 PM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Pakistan has its own nuclear weapons, major weapons importers are China and the USA, but also France, Italy, Germany, Sweden, Turkey.
posted by stbalbach at 1:03 PM on June 23, 2012


You mean exporters?
posted by Justinian at 1:09 PM on June 23, 2012


Well, China "imports" US weapons all the time.
posted by elwoodwiles at 1:36 PM on June 23, 2012


Is this one of those rhetorical questions or are you asking for serious

You'll have to ask the author of the piece.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 1:38 PM on June 23, 2012


And here we've been blaming emissions fas the #1 source of pollution. It's been arms, all along.
posted by yoga at 1:50 PM on June 23, 2012


It's basically the same reason why, in Civ V, if I discover a city state with the traits "militaristic" and "irrational" near one of my enemies, I will gift them with as many powerful military units as I can spare.
posted by feloniousmonk at 2:20 PM on June 23, 2012 [6 favorites]


It's a shame that the snark has overwhelmed a pretty good article — thanks for posting it, AE — where they talk about the actual mechanism of sale and a little bit more about the countries involved. (Not that it's bad snark, just that there's so much of a like.)

There are a couple things worth noting, I think:

1) One of the big mistakes that I think gets made pretty often when talking about international affairs (and it's handily echoed by the fundamental attribution error in individual cases) is that governments are seen as single, coherent entities with goals and character. One of the nice things that this article does is point out how the state department isn't necessarily in concord with the defense department.

2) The language of international human rights is unfortunately really vague and, for lack of a better word at the moment, existential. Not in the Sarte sense, but with, say, the listed complaints about Honduras including domestic violence — domestic violence is a problem here in the states too. Scale matters, and because the topline reports that we get don't generally include relative scale, it leads to bad comparisons and farces like China's annual human rights report on the US (not that I disagree that the US has human rights abuses, just that the whole report is a disingenuous tu quoque to distract from China's more egregious record) or the perceived inability for the US to pronounce censure (an argument to moral authority rather than that the acts are bad themselves).

3) While I agree with the underlying conclusion of the article — that the US should be more restrictive of arms sales abroad — they do undermine their case with some of the supporting quotes. Implicitly arguing to decrease sales to Israel because of domestic terrorism against civilians? It's a semantic jumble. The terrorism against civilians as reasonably defined is far more common from anti-Israeli groups than the Israeli state; the great structural violence that the Israeli police state does to Arabs in its territory and surrounding it comes almost entirely through state action, and calling it terrorism is a misapplication of the term. That's particularly bothersome because an accurate description of how Israel treats Palestinians, generally, is bad enough to justify restricting arms sales on its own.

Likewise, including domestic violence or lack of marital rape laws in the human rights complaints as cited is a red herring, because there's very little credible causal connection between those things and, say, attack helicopters. By moving away from examples where something bad but irrelevant is happening, it implies that there's no more legitimate reasons to restrict these arms sales and the authors don't believe the other reasons are sufficient. It's worse because the other reasons, like restrictions on assembly, are sufficient — it weakens the case through favoring breadth over depth.

4) I think that it is reasonable from this article to think about what kind of equipment and tactical autonomy we allow our police forces. I tend to think — though I admit this is supposition — that the more violent and powerful a police force is when dealing with reasonably disputed activity (protest), the more violent and chaotic response. While that can be turned around as a tactic of moral appeal (non-violent protest response), in general I think it only provokes escalation. It's tough, though, without being really intentional, to restrict police powers in one sphere without compromising them in another. But given the tactics used on protesters in, say, Oakland, are more of a type than not with the same things that are held up as deal breakers for other countries, if we're being consistent it's worth figuring out how to apply those boundaries domestically.
posted by klangklangston at 3:09 PM on June 23, 2012 [10 favorites]


"As soon as that check clears we're going in"
posted by merocet at 3:20 PM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Tradition.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:50 PM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


America aids dubious governments by selling them high tech weaponry to terrorize their people with, while on the other hand, its constitution supports 'the right to bear arms' so the people can defend themselves from dubious governments - what does America believe?
posted by Aedo55 at 3:56 PM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


America aids dubious governments by selling them high tech weaponry to terrorize their people with, while on the other hand, its constitution supports 'the right to bear arms' so the people can defend themselves from dubious governments - what does America believe?

To be fair, many of the wars America fights are against regimes they've previously sold weapons to. The two big recent ones, for example.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:17 PM on June 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


I for one am outraged that we are selling these weapons at cost with no markup. That is fucking bullshit. See this is why these fuckers just ignore our demands for democracy and freedom; if you let people walk all over you and never take your margin they won't take you seriously.
posted by humanfont at 4:30 PM on June 23, 2012


The US and France mostly sells the stuff because burying bottles is politically inacceptable.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 4:32 PM on June 23, 2012


The Perpetual War Portfolio
posted by homunculus at 8:23 PM on June 23, 2012


"The Perpetual War Portfolio" doesn't explain much for me. The donations of the war machine companies are chump change. I think all those companies assume they have a market for their flesh-shredding weaponry; it is others with bigger pockets who determine where the weapons go.
posted by kozad at 9:43 PM on June 23, 2012


"Sorcerers of death's construction"
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 11:20 PM on June 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is why in X-Com I largely manufacture medikits for cash instead of laser rifles (neither needs alien materiel and requires only earth tech, so basically, free money) although laser rifles bring in a slightly better profit.

That's not to say that I haven't dumped loads of alien plasma weapons on the open market. But I've never sold ammo for them.
posted by porpoise at 12:41 AM on June 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


business as usual for a fascist state.
posted by txmon at 8:20 AM on June 24, 2012


The bottom of page 1 of the article says "toxicological agents". What could this mean? I mean, even I couldn't believe the US would be selling chemical warfare components.
posted by wilful at 5:01 PM on June 24, 2012


That depends on how you define 'chemical warfare'
posted by the man of twists and turns at 5:18 PM on June 24, 2012


The Perpetual War Portfolio

Great info, but that web page design hurts my eyes. I had to force myself to read it instead of fleeing immediately.
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:50 PM on June 24, 2012


Obligatory.
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:52 PM on June 24, 2012


Why not?
posted by mazola at 10:25 PM on June 24, 2012


The Perpetual War Portfolio

Just for fun, I put those companies into a mock portfolio. As it turns out, perpetual war isn't really very good business. They're seriously underperforming the S&P500 and have been for several years. Even if you toss in Booz-Allen Hamilton (NYSE:BAH) and IBM (NYSE:IBM) and a few other defense-industry heavies, you're still losing money versus other, less ... evil investments.

Bottom line: if you want to see psychopathologies pay dividends, your best bet is still Wall Street.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:14 PM on June 25, 2012


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