The Dollar Auction Continues

It should come as no surprise that the US is selling arms to Pakistan.

“2,769 Radio Frequency TOW 2A missiles, 415 RF bunker buster missiles, fly-to-buy missiles in both these categories, 121 TOW launchers for wire-guided and wireless missiles, E-2C HAWKEYE 2000 Airborne Early Warning Systems, simulators and support equipment. Their total worth could be up to $1.04 Billion.”

According Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, “The latest geo-strategic rationale for many US (arms) sales is the so-called war on terror…. US officials claim that the recent sale to Pakistan of F-16 jets with air-to-air missiles will help in the fight against Al Qaeda. In reality, they are for fighting India and they create a market for selling similar US fighters to India.” [Emphasis mine.]

Of the many causes of third world poverty (and India accounts for a pretty large share of the third world), the buying of arms from the so-called first world must be a major cause. Yes, the US is the largest seller of weapons of mass destruction — it not only develops the weapons of mass destruction, but it also sells them around the world. The US has to keep selling these WMD so as to keeps its WMD factories humming.

But the US could not sell these weapons unless the leaders of the third world impoverished countries did not want to buy these for self aggrandizement. You need drug dealers and drug addicts. If there were no addicts, there wouldn’t be any profit in dealing. Or to put it another way, if there were no bidders, the auctioneer would be jobless. The dollar auction continues.

India’s development and the trade in WMD is clearly related, and I have pondered the issue on this blog before. From “Benefits of Weapons Trade“:

Take, for instance, trade in weapons of mass destruction. Is it welfare enhancing? The seller of these weapons clearly profits from the trade. What about the buyer? Does it really promote the security of the buyer? These questions bear investigation. While the answers may all be very trivially obvious for some, it is not at all clear to me. Though the perception may be widely shared that buying weapons is good use of scarce resources, it could also be wildly incorrect.

The reluctance of the US when it comes to selling arms to developing countries is like Sam’s reluctance to let his gullible friends paint the fence for him. When he finally relents, the friends are happy and suitably grateful to him for his magnanimity. Only in few trades are all the gains one-sided but trade such as these are exemplars of that set.

From the “Care and Feeding of the Permanent Arms Industry“:

The care and feeding of the monstrous permanent arms industry requires perpetual armed conflict. Like sheep to the slaughter, the third world countries eagerly line up for the treat of killing their neighbors while impoverishing themselves even further. A dispassionate observer could easily conclude that these poor over-populated third-rate countries deserve their demolition and wash his hands of the whole sorry mess.

And from “Part 2 of the Care and Feeding“:

Before I am taken to task by someone for stating the above, let me hasten to add that there is no law in the universe which prohibits a country from profiting from the stupidity of other countries. That India and Pakistan are abjectly poor overpopulated underdeveloped nations constantly at each others’ throat willing to further impoverish themselves by buying impossibly expensive weapons from abroad is not the US’s fault. The US merely supplies the arms, it does not directly go and starve millions of people of third world countries. The actual starving of untold millions of abjectly poor people in third rate world countries is because of the warmongering ignorant policy makers that populate these countries.

To round it all off, here are my views on the True Weapons of Mass Destruction:

The rich sell arms to the poor and the poor pay for it through the blood, sweat, and tears of its starving millions. To be sure, it is not the starving millions who are interested in fighting the poor of the neighboring countries. These millions of poor unfortunates are merely the slave labor that supply through their toil goods that the rich buy in exchange for the arms they ship to the armies of the poor nations.

It is interesting to ask who exactly wants war. Speaking personally, I am against aggression and don’t wish to be the victim nor the perpetrator of aggression. I also believe that the vast majority of people would happily live and let live. So how does it happen that nations arm themselves to the teeth and more often than not beggar their neighbors and themselves in doing so.

I believe it is so because nations are not monolithic entities. People have different stations in a country. The generals who wage wars and the politicians who direct the ship of state do not have to pay for the wars themselves. The poor have to die on the battle fields and those who are not paid to die, starve on the streets so that their meagre production can be shipped out to pay for the weapons of mass destruction that the leaders of the nation buy for their own amusement.

It is all karma, neh?

Author: Atanu Dey


7 thoughts on “The Dollar Auction Continues”

  1. “The reluctance of the US when it comes to selling arms to developing countries is like Sam’s reluctance to let his gullible friends paint the fence for him.”

    If you are alluding to Mark Twain’s work this should read “Tom” not “Sam”.

    On a serious note the wepons industry is the symptom and not the disease. In fact i am not sure if there is a disease. It is in the nature of the species to conduct internecine genocide and as with all things natural there is a fractal element in human behavior.This is what allows us to see symmentry in local, continental and global conflicts. While this does not condone the behavior (we are after all a self proclaimed sentient species) i dont see to many paths out. Our social evolution has not kept up with our technological evolution. Till this balance is achieved (it can either be that we evolve a higher social concience or sink to a lower technology level) war and mass death are inevitable. My money is on sinking to a lower population and technology level. But then i was always the pessimist (realist?)

    Atanu’s response: No, I really mean “Sam” as in Samuel L Clemens and not “Tom” as in Tom Sawyer, the character created by Sam writing as Mark Twain. If you read the post from which the excerpt is taken, it would be clear.

    Culling the species? Yes, it is part of the evolutionary story of life on earth.


  2. Agree with you, but a question ponders.
    In the film Lakshya, an angry Major screams,
    “We too need peace, but we can’t pray before them for peace”.

    If the other guy is gonna buy, I am always afraid & to get rid, go & buy it.

    The way to win the Dollar-Auction game is not to play it all, but once joined, when to sto.
    Wonder, where’s the end.


  3. … but once joined, when to sto{p}

    There have been several times that this game could have been put to a stop.
    In 65, in 71…
    Winning matters!
    Who ever said it doesn’t is a damn loser.
    A fundamental realization has to take place in india. Religion Matters.
    Its Jihaad. Better take the jihaad to jihaadis. Its their wish to be a shahid and be with hooris and we should help them in doing so.
    PS The arms going to pakistan is not only from US its from every one who sells arm.
    Pakistan currently has more functional russian equipment than american.
    Blaming america for all the problems is in fashion.
    But thats a game that only impotents play.


  4. “Lord of War” is a good movie that deals with this subject. Before the end credit, this message comes up: “US, Russia, UK, China are the major arms selling nations and they are the permanent members of the security council.”

    The film has a lengthy part showing how Aficans mess up themselves by buying these weapons. At that time, I did not think about us.


  5. The way out of developing countries as ours, I’d say is that we allot more and more funds to the R&D centres in our own homes — if not DRDO then other defense research labs, etc. One wouldn’t need to import salt if you have a large coastline.

    The issue of whether such an arms race benefits anyone is a different question altogether.


  6. Atanu,

    I posted this comment over at IEB, and am cross-posting it here

    As a regular reader of your blog, I know that the issue of (American) arms sales to developing countries (Pakistan and India) is close to your heart. Looking only at the effect of the actions, your conclusions are logical and reasonable.

    What I think your analysis should also consider is the centrality of the security dilemma and the fundamental nature of international relations. Realists like Hans Morgenthau, Kenneth Waltz and Mearshiemer will argue that conflict is inevitable in international relations. That’s what our own Vishnugupta aka Kautilya said two thousand years before Morgenthau. Realism does not present an optimistic view of the world, yet, offers the most accurate account of the affairs between states.

    What this means is that it’s not America’s fault. If the Americans did not, the Russians will. If not the Russians, then the Israelis, Chinese etc. That’s how the North Korean missiles ended up in Pakistan. That’s how Pakistani nukes ended up in nasty places. Btw, Pakistan is becoming an exporter of conventional arms now (they had a very successful convention called IDEAS 2006 in Karachi recently). I don’t have numbers, but in terms of lethality (as opposed to high-tech) I would not be surprised if such things as landmines, AK-47s etc are claiming more lives than F-16s and bunker busters at the hands of developing countries.

    States, therefore, have reasons to go to war. Your argument is that American foreign policy (through the sale of arms) is impoverishing the developing world. But American foreign policy too is driven by calculations of its own legitimate geopolitical interests. The sale of weapons becomes necessary in the pursuit of those interests. If I’m an American, I would care more for my own national interest rather than the well-being of some third world country. This does not, however, mean that all American foreign policies positions are well designed (there is no insurance against errors of judgement or plain old stupidity). One consequence of America’s pursuit of its own interest is an unfortunate arms race somewhere else in the world. But in all likelihood, that arms race would have occured even if America didn’t export the stuff.


    While generals and politicians generally are the actors who ’start’ wars, I’m not so sure that ordinary Joes don’t believe it is necessary. It really depends on the nature of the war—if it’s a defensive war (eg in Kargil 1999-2000) you’ll find strong public opinion in favour of war. Wars of choice are a different matter.

    While on this topic, please see my recent post on the future of war.


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