/** headlines: 171.0 **/
New record set for U.S. arms exports
By Ken Boettcher, The People, Vol.109 no.4, July 1999
A recent report released by the Washington research center Demilitarization for Democracy shines some light into the black hole of U.S. arms sales. In so doing it validates the socialist view that the material interests of the capitalist class drive U.S. foreign policy, to the grim detriment of world peace and future prospects for it.
According to the report, a new record for the U.S. export of arms and military training to dictatorships was set in 1997. U.S. military exports totaled $8.3 billion that year to 52 countries in which the State Department itself "says citizens are not allowed to choose their government democratically." New records were also set "for overall U.S. arms exports, at $21.3 billion, and exports to developing nations, at $15.6 billion."
As the figures would suggest, the U.S. capitalist class doesn't discriminate--it also exports arms and military training to countries that are nominally democratic. In fact, as one report in MOTHER JONES pointed out, in a continuing practice differing from the past only in the sense of ever-increasing volume, "From 1993 to 1997, the U.S. government sold, approved or gave away $190 billion in weapons TO VIRTUALLY EVERY NATION ON EARTH." (Emphasis added.)
Among the customers or recipients of U.S. military hardware, aid and/or training are countries whose record of government repression and violation of civil liberties are long standing and well-documented--e.g., Singapore, Indonesia, Turkey, Peru, Colombia, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. For example:
These examples illustrate that arms sales, loans and outright gifts by the U.S. government are not rewards for good human rights records allowed to democratic foreign governments seeking to protect and advance democracy and peace in the world. Rather, they are the currency of a U.S. foreign policy that everywhere seeks to bolster the material interests of the U.S. capitalist class, and especially those of arms industry capitalists in particular--and human rights and democratic values be damned. Those willing to wheel and deal with U.S. capitalism or bend to its strategic interests get the goods regardless of their own abuses of power and democratic rights, those that balk don't.
There is also a more direct economic motive for arms sales. The U.S. government uses arms sales to help defray research and development and initial production costs of weapons. By selling weapons to other nations, U.S. capitalists reduce the unit costs of weapons and thus reduce the total costs of the ongoing U.S. military buildup.
Arms manufacturing capitalists also benefit from the lower unit costs that arms sales bring. It allows them to add to the typically already high rate of profit that military contracts bring. Moreover, fatter contracts also mean a higher mass of profits. In addition, some companies are heavily dependent upon foreign arms sales for their continued operation. The corporate giants of the military-industrial complex, accordingly, seek to protect and promote foreign arms sales.
For the capitalist economy as a whole, arms sales, like militarism generally, are a vital economic prop. They help the system employ otherwise unused capital and labor. Arms sales are an even better stimulus for a capitalist economy than government-funded military production, since the arms are paid for by the client government and not by taxes or inflationary deficits. Arms sales also help the balance of trade.
To recognize that arms sales help sustain the capitalist economy is not to argue in their favor. It is merely more evidence of the antisocial nature of the capitalist system that it relies on militarism to an ever greater extent to help stave off its inevitable cyclical economic crises.
Indeed, today's mushrooming arms sales reflect the dire straits of the present world order. To abate economic constrictions at home, the United States is stuffing pro-U.S. dictatorships and "democracies" alike with arms like never before. In doing so, the U.S. government and U.S. arms manufacturers not only contribute to the ruin of the economies of many lesser developed nations, but they also increase the potential for war.
Given the crumbling of the world economy and the intensified international competition it has given rise to, the chances are growing that the world's massive arsenals will be used in more and more areas of the world. But even if the weapons are not used, it is the world's working class that will bear the cost of their production and sale. To avoid suffocating under the weight of this obscene glut of armaments, workers in every nation must organize to overthrow their ruling class, which alone benefits from the production of instruments of death.