Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay / The New American Empire.com – 2006-11-12 22:41:42
“A man may build himself a throne of bayonets, but he cannot sit on it.”
— William Ralph Inge (1860-1954).
“What’s the point of having this superb military … if we can’t use it?”
— Madeleine Albright, former American ambassador to the UN and former Secretary of State.
“It is not an exaggeration to say that it is clearly in the interests of the world’s leading arms exporters to make sure that there is always a war going on somewhere.”
— Marilyn Waring, former Prime Minister of New Zealand (from her book, Counting For Nothing).
(November 6, 2006) — One indication of the current breakdown of international law  among nations is the ongoing arms race to obtain or enlarge their stocks of both nuclear and conventional weapons, and to militarize space.
As far as nuclear arms proliferation  is concerned, we all know about the efforts by a growing number of countries to obtain them. This is happening even though the 1968 Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) was designed to LIMIT the spread of nuclear weapons .
Far from contracting, the number of countries in the nuclear capabilities club — USA, Russia, China, France, United Kingdom, India, Pakistan, Israel — is expanding, while the goal of nuclear disarmament has become a dead letter.
THE US IS RENEWING THE NUCLEAR ARMS RACE
Some amongst the most heavily-armed countries, such as the United States, have even revealed plans to replace their aging nuclear weapons stockpiles with more modern and more deadly weapons. The Bush-Cheney Administration, for instance, announced:
• Last March 5, 2006, its plan for building as many as 125 new nuclear bombs  per year, from 2010 to 2022, while at the same time rather hypocritically assuring other nations that it is not seeking a new arms race.
• Last June 13, 2006, the Bush-Cheney administration also made it clear that, despite what the 1967 U.N. Treaty banning weapons of mass destruction from space says , the United States is going ahead with its plans to develop weapons for use in Outer Space , with the clear intention of asserting American dominance over this common property of all humankind.
If needs be, the Bush-Cheney administration will not hesitate to pull out of the 1967 Treaty, just as it pulled out of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty in 2002.
It is obvious, therefore, that a nuclear arms race is on the way, with very few checks in its path.
THE US IS STARTING A CONVENTIONAL ARMS RACE
Turning to the world of CONVENTIONAL weapons , their production, their spread, and their use is even more endemic. Existing international conventions outlawing the use of inhumane weapons against populations — such as the 1980 Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW)  — are openly violated, as the summer 2006 destruction of Lebanon by Israel vividly illustrated .
There are new efforts to restrict conventional weapons proliferation, especially in the developing world, such as the proposed Arms Trade Treaty . Ironically, those efforts are being RESISTED by some of the developed countries precisely because they are the larger producers and exporters of armaments.
For example, on October 27, 2006, the vast majority — 139 — of countries represented at the United Nations voted in favor of an historic resolution to have the new UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon , prepare a global Arms Trade Treaty for 2007. The aim is to introduce some much-needed regulation of the wide-open international arms transfer business, which currently fuels CONFLICT, POVERTY and SERIOUS HUMAN-RIGHTS VIOLATIONS in many DEVELOPING countries.
However, the main exporter of armaments, the United States, voted AGAINST the resolution. Indeed, the US was the ONLY country to vote NO. Another twenty-four countries abstained — among them large arms exporters such as Russia and China.
It can be considered a tribute to some of the European countries that are large arms exporters — such as France, Great Britain and Germany — that they SUPPORTED the UN resolution in favor of the forthcoming Arms Trade Control Treaty.
AT LEAST THESE EUROPEAN COUNTRIES ARE SHOWING SOME LEADERSHIP, EVEN IF THE US HAS ABDICATED ANY PRETENSE OF LEADERSHIP IN THIS DOMAIN.
Realistically, to be effective, the proposed Arms Trade Control Treaty would need to be implemented by ALL of the countries that are large producers and exporters of armaments, and by MOST other countries.
The reason is simple: a weapons company that is headquartered in a given country with strict export controls can always circumvent those national regulations by manufacturing its weapons in a non-complying country. Even if every nation implemented it, the challenge would nonetheless remain of stopping the UNDERGROUND INTERNATIONAL ARMS DEALERS who do their ILLEGAL trade without requesting any export licenses.
US LEADS WORLD IN TOTAL INTERNATIONAL ARMS TRADE
The world’s total international arms trade  has been INCREASING RAPIDLY. In 2005, it reached an all-time high in current dollars of $44.2 billion (from $38.9 billion in 2004).
The US is the world’s LEADING CONVENTIONAL arms-exporting nation , accounting for about 29 percent of all international arms trade. Last year, in 2005, the US exported $12.8 billion in military gear of all sorts, with about half of it ($6.2 billion) going to developing nations.
The other leading arms-exporting nations last year were FRANCE (second with $7.9 billion in total arms sales) and RUSSIA (third with $7.4 billion in total sales). The UNITED KINGDOM and CHINA came in fourth and fifth, with $2.8 and $2.1 billion in arms exports in 2005.
If one adds together the 25 countries of Western Europe, they surpass the US in trade of armaments, with about 44 percent of total arms exports in 2005. The other two non-Western countries, Russia and China, are respectively responsible for about 17 percent and 5 percent of total world arms exports.
CONSEQUENCES OF WORLD ARMS TRADE:
WAR, DESPOTISM, OPPRESSION, POVERTY
Such a large-scale trade in armaments  has the expected NEGATIVE consequences of: fueling regional conflicts; solidifying undemocratic and abusive regimes; and increasing poverty in countries that are already poor.
But is it realistic to want to reduce arms exports without at the same time attempting to reduce military production? Probably not because
THE FUNDAMENTAL CAUSE OF THE FLOURISHING INTERNATIONAL TRADE IN ARMAMENTS IS THE LARGE MILITARY ESTABLISHMENTS THAT INDUSTRIAL COUNTRIES SUBSIDIZE YEAR AFTER YEAR.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)  has estimated that total world military expenditures  —- which had been falling from 1991 to 1996—are once again on the rise, especially since 2001. For instance, total world military expenditures amounted to $1.118 TRILLION in current dollars in 2005, which is 2.5 percent of total world economic production, or about $173 per capita. This means that for every person on the globe, nations are spending $173 annually on weaponry instead of on food, clothing, or housing.
THIS IS BIG BUSINESS. AND IT CAN ONLY BE SUSTAINED THROUGH THE CONSTANT THREAT OF ONCOMING ARMED CONFLICTS OR THROUGH ARMS EXPORTS TO COUNTRIES ALREADY IN TURMOIL.
The USA alone  is responsible for close to half — 48% in 2005 — of all the military expenditures in the world. This means the U.S. spends as much money on its own military as the rest of the world combined spends on their militaries. Therefore, it is not too surprising that the US is also the largest arms exporter, and that many American industries are reluctant to loose such a lucrative business.
Fourteen other countries account for about 36 percent of global military expenditures, with such countries as Russia, UK, France, Japan and China, each spending about 4 to 5 percent of the total. In other words, the five nuclear members of the UN Security Council  — USA, Russia, China, U.K. and France — are also the world’s largest military spenders. Therefore, it is only normal that serious global leadership on this crucial matter should originate from this quartet. Let us hope their prudential foresight will triumph over morally-blind greed.
 http://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy/2006/10/crs_on_conventional_arms_trans.html  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arms_trade
Rodrigue Tremblay is Emeritus Professor of Economics at the University of Montreal and is the author of the book The New American Empire. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit his blog site at:
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