US Sells Three-Fourths of Worldwide Arms

US Sells Three-Fourths of Worldwide Arms

US Sells Three-Fourths of Worldwide Arms

At least we’re exporting something.


Here’s the opening phrase of a scare story in the Washington Post from this weekend:

China’s arms exports have surged over the past decade…

And here’s the second paragraph from today’s New York Times story on worldwide arms sales:

Overseas weapons sales by the United States totaled $66.3 billion last year, or more than three-quarters of the global arms market, valued at $85.3 billion in 2011. Russia was a distant second, with $4.8 billion in deals.

China doesn’t even show up as a blip on the screen. The Post buries in the piece that China is “the sixth-largest arms exporter in the world.”

So dominant is the United States in worldwide arms trafficking that—get this!—US arms sales to a single country, Saudi Arabia, totaled $33.4 billion last year. That amount surpassed the entire total of US arms sales to all countries in the world in 2009, $31 billion. A commentary by a Wall Street analysis site notes happily: “The news confirms how critical defense, airplane, and agricultural exports are to the overall American trade balance.”

The vast surge of American military industrial–complex exports is driven, in large part, by the bugaboo of Iran, so perhaps Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu ought to get a commission for doing most of the scaremongering. Not only Saudi Arabia but the other anachronistic kings, emirs and sheikhs are gobbling up US weapons at a record pace.

But it’s important to scare people about China, too, at least so that the countries surrounding that bugaboo nation will start gobbling American arms, namely, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, the Philippines, Japan, et al. In the meantime, however, the United States plans to vastly expand its missile-defense system in the Pacific, regardless of the cost and regardless of the fact that it will spur a regional arms race with China. Reports the Wall Street Journal:

The U.S. decision to expand its missile-defense shield in the Asia-Pacific region, ostensibly to defend against North Korea, could feed Chinese fears about containment by the U.S. and encourage Beijing to accelerate its own missile program, analysts say.

The new effort, which includes the deployment of an early-warning radar system, known as X-Band, in Japan—and possibly another in Southeast Asia—reflects America’s deepening military and security engagement in the region after a decade focused on the Middle East and Afghanistan.

The real arms race, however, is whether the United States can sell more arms to the Middle East, or to Asia.

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Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editorial Director and Publisher, The Nation

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