The USA Is Number One — In Weapons Sales

Arms Sales and Profits: Up, Up, and Away!

W.J. Astore

Once again, the USA leads the world in weapons sales, notes SIPRI, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.  The 100 biggest arms producers accounted for $375 billion in weapons sales in 2016, with US firms having by far the largest share at $217 billion.  That’s right: the US accounts for roughly 58% of the global arms trade. We’re #1!  We’re #1!

Not only do we arm our friends but our foes as well, notes FP: Foreign Policy, which has the following SitRep (situation report) for today:

U.S. weapons used by ISIS. A new report from Conflict Armament Research, a U.K.-based weapons tracking group, outlines in fascinating detail the industrial-scale weapons manufacturing capabilities the Islamic State boasted of in its prime… But what might be most notable are the American-supplied weapons found amid the ruins — the aftermath of secretive American efforts to provide small rebel groups with anti-tank rockets and other guided munitions. The transfer of the rockets, purchased from European countries, violated end-user agreements signed by the United States pledging not to transfer the weapons to third parties. In some cases, it took only a few weeks for the weapons to end up in the hands of Islamic State fighters after being delivered to allegedly friendly forces.  

Let’s face it: $217 billion is an enormous amount of money, and the weapons trade is enormously profitable to the US.  America’s wars are not coming to an end anytime soon: there’s simply too much money being made on manufacturing and selling war.

This puts me to mind of observations made by Father Daniel Berrigan, who served prison time for protesting the Vietnam War.  Berrigan wrote with eloquence against war, and his words from a half-century ago are as timely today as they were during the Vietnam protests:

“we are powerless to inquire why it is easier to continue to slaughter than to stop it, why the historical cult of violence has become the mainstay of policy–both foreign and domestic, or why our economy so requires warmaking that perpetual war has united with expanding profits as the chief national purpose.”

And that was when the US still had a manufacturing base for consumer goods that hadn’t withered from “free” trade deals like NAFTA and other globalization efforts.  The global market the US dominates today is not for consumer goods but for wares of destruction.

When you sow the winds of weaponry and war, and profit mightily from it, do you not eventually have to reap the whirlwind of destruction?

9 thoughts on “The USA Is Number One — In Weapons Sales

  1. As Chalmers Johnson once said: “When war becomes the most profitable course of action,
    we can certainly expect more of it”.


    1. An excellent reference to the late Chalmers Johnson whose authoritative trilogy of books: Blowback: the Costs and Consequences of American Empire (2000); The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (2004); and Nemesis: the Last Days of the American Republic (2006), deserve in-depth study and wide dissemination.

      In regard to the secretive (and therefore corrupt) awarding of military-hardware and clandestine-mercenary-services contracts as the principle means of undermining “democracy” in the United States, he writes in Nemesis:

      “Unfortunately, after more than two centuries (about the same length of time that the Roman Republic was in its prime), this [Constitutional] framework has almost completely disintegrated. For those who believe that the structure of government in Washington today bears some resemblance to that outlined in the Constitution of 1787, the burden of proof is on them. The president now now dominates the government in a way no ordinary monarch possibly could. He has at his disposal the clandestine services of the CIA, a private army unaccountable to the Congress, the press, or the public because everything it does is secret. No president since Harry Truman, having discovered what unlimited power the CIA affords him, has ever failed to use it. Meanwhile, the “defense” budgets of the Pentagon dwarf those of the rest of the government and have undermined democratic decision making in the process. Funds for military hardware are distributed in as many states as possible to ensure that any member of Congress who might consider voting against a new weapons system would be accused of putting some of his constituents out of work.”

      In essence, Chalmers Johnson recapitulates in exquisite detail what Upton Sinclair said in his famously terse dictum: “It’s difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” In the United States today, the corporate oligarchy has simply arranged things so that anything associated with”war” becomes the source of income — hourly wages or salary — for those who would otherwise pursue more peaceful, democratic, and egalitarian ways of living. Making “War, Inc.” the primary employer of too many Americans too widely and politically distributed, combined with the uniformed military joining the CIA’s proxy-mercenary forces in now-almost-completly secretive “wars” makes democratic opposition to these indidious cancers effectively impossible.

      Without the total elimination of any and all forms government “secrecy,” combined with a massive anti-trust breakup of large corporate conglomerations, I see no possible future for a non-fascist “democractic republic” in the United States. Making American “salaries” dependent on peace seems like the only antidote to present “presidential” tyranny. Who will propose and enact such a necessary disinfecting program?


  2. We are powerless to inquire why it is easier to continue to slaughter than to stop it, why the historical cult of violence has become the mainstay of policy–both foreign and domestic, or why our economy so requires war making that perpetual war has united with expanding profits as the chief national purpose.”

    As you point out this era was pre-Nafta and all the other Neo – Liberal trade “free” trade policies. We also had by comparison an aggressive fourth estate that actually questioned the efficiency and results of the war machine.

    Today we are truly powerless to inquire about the USA’s perpetual wars. Our Corporate Press resembles the old Soviet style Pravda or something out of Nazi Germany. The foreign policy of the state is not questioned. Glowing press releases on the progress in Whatsupstan by the Military is reported as fact, with out any fact checking. Elected officials are afraid to confess they have utterly failed to provide any oversight of the perpetual wars.

    That said we Proles for now can continue to protest but we are not heard.


      1. We do have a rather strange system in the USA. We do not have the absolute control over us proles that previous and current political systems have or had – The extremes would be Stalinism, Mao, Mussolini or Hitlerism. Orwell’s book 1984 took us into a world where the state monitored every movement and potential thought. The state of “1984” would then exert what ever force was necessary to crush any dissent.

        Even today with their semi-market economy the Chinese Communist Regime has an iron hand that can and will be wielded against dissent. The Myth of the Free Market Capitalist types was that by “Free Trade” with Communist China individual human rights would follow. The Chi-Coms have proved that Steroid Capitalism can work with out human rights.

        Here in the USA, we can say, or write Trump is a bag of cow manure, or Obama was corporate puppet for Wall Street. We have that freedom. However, what we lack within this system is the ability to change course. The huge amount of money necessary to run for let alone be elected to a high office federal or state acts as an effective barrier. Our moneyed aristocracy is not about to fund a campaign that would challenge their control.

        I suppose in sense we can start the political car, but we cannot put into drive. We are like a child in those early car seats that had little steering wheels. We can turn the little steering wheel all we want but someone else controls it’s direction.


      2. Well put, ML. The latest Republican tax cut is further evidence; it’s basically corporate welfare.

        It’s that old “trickle down” voodoo. Corporations, in saving money, will surely invest in workers and raise their pay, right? Ha Ha. No–they’ll pay off their shareholders while making some modest investments in technology, probably with the goal of furthering reducing the need for humans as workers.

        In a strange way, national security concerns have preserved high-paying manufacturing jobs in the U.S. in the armaments industry. If not for F-35s and Hellfire missiles and similar weaponry, what would Americans export at considerable profit overseas? Corporations have outsourced nearly every job they could to overseas markets with much lower labor costs, e.g. Mexico, China, Vietnam, the usual suspects. So what’s left for Americans to build? Guns! Missiles! Jet aircraft! Bombs!


Comments are closed.