The Americans have left Afghanistan and given the Taliban a gift. Their war chest, state-of-the-art helicopters, attack planes, rifles, machine guns, humvees, and the most advanced American weapons, and this is not a first. The United States of America is a repeat offender when it comes to arming criminals, terror groups, and rogue regimes – sometimes by design and sometimes by default.
America feeds the global war machine. American weapons are being used to undermine what American governments say they are fighting for international peace and security.
Weapon sales have always been integral to America’s foreign policy for decades. Washington has sold arms and ammunition to almost any country that wanted to buy them. In some cases, it has done so without even notifying the US congress or the American public.
This trend began in the 1970s at the height of the cold war between the US and the Soviet Union. The Nixon administration started shipping weapons to counter Soviet expansion; the policy was called the Nixon Doctrine. The aim was to substitute American weapons for American boots. Send weapons to allies instead of sending troops to their lands. This led to a tenfold expansion in arms sales.
America shipped weapons to countries like Ethiopia, Laos, Cambodia, South Vietnam, and Iran. Yes, Iran. The United States sold billions of dollars in weapons to the Shah of Iran. During the 1970s the sales included everything from cargo planes to supersonic interceptors, phantom bombers, and surface-to-surface missiles.
Iran bought a total of 15 billion dollars of the most advanced US weapons, $15 billion and we’re talking about half a century ago. America did this in the hope of protecting its oil supply from Iran and staving off Soviet influence in the Persian Gulf. It suffered an extreme blowback.
In 1979 the Islamic revolution took place. Iran went from being a monarchy to an Islamic republic. From an American ally to an adversary. The new regime took control of all these American weapons and used them against the US, something similar happened in Panama. For most of the 20th-century, Panama was an American ally, a recipient of billions of dollars in military assistance, and a major base for the American military.
In 1989, General Manuel Noriega, a CIA asset for 20 years came to power and threatened American interests. This prompted a US invasion. A clash that featured American troops facing American weapons. This is the flip side of indiscriminate arms sales but Washington has not changed course.
In the 1980s the US sold weapons to Iraq to keep a check on Iran only to end up confronting Iraq after its annexation of Kuwait. Guess which weapons the Iraqis used?
Around the same time, America sold missiles and tanks to Somalia only to launch a military intervention in Somalia in 1992.
In Afghanistan the US armed the mujahideen to help them fight Soviet troops. In 2001, it invaded Afghanistan to fight the Taliban which was a product of America’s supporter Mujahideen and complicit in Al-Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks.
Even after 9/11, America’s approach did not change. In fact, the US went into overdrive. It sold weapons to everyone and their grandmother in the name of bringing peace and stability.
Look at the numbers. Since 2001 the United States has sold conventional weapons worth almost 200 billion dollars to 167 countries around the world. Many of America’s clients are autocratic with long records of human rights violations infamous for violently suppressing democratic descent.
The US wants you to believe that it’s bringing peace and democracy to the world. The truth may be the exact opposite. The low-risk countries have been sold the least weapons. As you can see here the high-risk countries have got the maximum. See the following high-risk countries:
- Democratic Republic of Congo
The most volatile countries on this planet. They’re all in possession of American weapons. Then we have Saudi Arabia currently embroiled in military operations in Yemen, Tunisia, and Syria, a country with a track record of human rights violations and the opposite of democracy. It’s a prized American client.
What does all of this tell you is that the US promotes conflicts rather than stability. It fuels wars with its weapons and this policy remains irrespective of who’s in power, Democrats or Republicans.
Donald Trump signed arms deals at a record pace generating hundreds of billions of dollars for American defense companies and contractors. I’ll give you the numbers.
In 2017 he cut a deal worth 110 billion dollars to Saudi Arabia alone along with 157 sales worth more than 84 billion dollars to 42 other countries. He may have been against sending America to war but he ensured the coffers of the American war machine did not dry up.
“Tremendous investments into the United States and our military community are very happy and we want to thank you and Saudi Arabia, but hundreds of billions of dollars of investments into the United States and jobs jobs jobs,” Trump said it, others did not.
That is the only difference. All US presidents create wealth from arms sales. From Richard Nixon to Nobel Peace laureate Jimmy Carter, from Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton, from George Bush to Barack Obama to Donald Trump, and now Joe Biden, all of them have made it clear in policy documents that economic benefits are the biggest consideration.
While approving defense sales it is about business. It’s also about influence. Arms sales bring strategic gains for the US. Let me explain this
- They shift regional balance in favor of American interests,
- They help the US exert influence and leverage over countries that buy American arms
- They give America access to overseas military bases to maintain shadow supremacy
- They help in building pressure on the client countries to vote with the US at the United Nations.
This strategy has made the US the global hub of the arms trade. The US accounts for 33 percent of the global arms trade, Russia has 23 followed by China, France, and Germany.
How do America’s clients use these weapons? Mostly against their adversaries, some against their own people too.
There’s glaring evidence to prove how American arms sales have had economic, political, and social repercussions in recipient countries. How they’ve led to humanitarian violations, atrocities, and organized crime acts of violence.
The Taliban’s arms bonanza is just the tip of the iceberg. Time and again US weapons have fallen into the hands of non-state actors. In 2014 the US air-dropped weapons and supplies in the Syrian border town of Kobani. The weapons were meant for Kurdish fighters. They ended up in the hands of the Islamic state. ISIS even released a video thanking Washington for the gifts.
In 2019 an investigation revealed that arms provided by the US to Saudi Arabia and the UAE ended up in the hands of Al-Qaeda and a variety of terror outfits in Afghanistan. The same year another investigation revealed that American-made weaponry had fallen into the hands of rival militia groups in Yemen. These groups used US-supplied weapons against the US-backed government in Yemen.
The list is long, the point is short. When you make a habit of arming rogue regimes and non-state actors you are the biggest threat to the world, not the people who wield your weapons.
The United States cannot claim to promote human rights while selling weapons to human rights violators. The United States cannot claim to safeguard regional security while actively intensifying regional conflicts, and the United States definitely cannot claim to be the torchbearer of peace, stability, and democracy while also being the biggest arms dealer in the world.
World peace does not suit the US defense industry so the cycle of war continues.
- Reuters Aug. 20, 2021
- Reuters October 2016
- Defense News
- Forbes May 12, 2020
- Defense Security Corporation Agency
- Brookings Institution