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The Arms Industry and International Security Essay

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Updated: May 21st, 2019

Around the world, and across all societies, modern armed conflicts include the use of modern weaponry especially the small arms. The small arms are a class of small firearms that are cheap and available to most participants of armed conflict.

The pricing of fire arms particularly from Asian manufacturers makes them available to all people at war. In addition, the presence of unscrupulous arms dealers in who sell firearms in unconventional ways has led to acquisition of guns by groups that have little control over the use of the arms (Cukier et al 22).

Arms manufacturers and dealers may promote security of nations by selling firearms to countries with stable governments. The arms ensure stability of the government and prevent minority revolts from perpetrating chaos and anarchy in an otherwise peaceful environment.

However, a dilemma emerges where the governments of peaceful regions do not record any significant use of the firearms. In this case, the firearms in possession of the government do not wear out or get lost in any military confrontation. The governments then cease to be viable customers of the arms industry (Deng and Zartman 31). Under enormous pressure to flourish, the arms manufacturers and traders turn to conflict zones for promising arms market.

It is, however, arguable whether the arms trade fuels the ferocity of a conflict which has already started. The world has known conflict in the whole history of mankind. Wars and barbarian character of the people involved in armed conflicts existed even before the invention of firearms. In this regard, there is a possibility that the modern firearms trade has increased the mortality rate or the economic deterioration that come about with every major armed conflict (Diamond 43).

In addition, the modern arms can be considered similar to the firearms of the past in that they cause the same effect in the wars they are used in. The modern firearms are obviously more deadly that the weapons that were used in past warfare and their use inevitably leads to more grave consequences.

However, the desire of human beings to wage wars and propagate armed conflicts has been present in the society throughout history, and has only subsided in the modern times due to adoption of new age ideologies of coexistence and the value of peace and human life (Spitzer 30).

Apart from repercussions of armed territorial conflict, another problem directly linked to the arms industry is the internal insecurity. The availability of small arms to petty criminals and organized criminal gangs has ensured their survival and ability to endure the adversity of the security forces.

The bigger percentage of the local crime in most countries involving fatal assaults includes the use of a firearm from a prominent gun manufacturer (UNIDIR 16). Moreover, the larger percentage of the guns present in the civilian population is channeled to the user through irresponsible arms dealers. Arms dealers and the arms manufacturing industry, thus, play a critical role in propagation of violence and the variety of problems that afflict the world security (Stohl and Grillot 25).

The governments’ failure to control the activities of arms dealers continues to fuel conflicts and propagate brutal dictatorial rule in developing countries particularly in Africa.

Relatively new arms manufacturers especially in South Africa and Egypt sell arms to undocumented users within the continent affected by a myriad of armed conflicts the arms trade is a necessary component for survival of legal governments, but the designated end user of all guns sold determines the ability of rogue individuals and groups to perpetrate unnecessary violence.

The moral and political aspect of arms industry can be analyzed from several perspectives. The arms business is a lucrative venture for some of the developed countries in the west. These countries sell arms to the less developed countries with a unstable political environment without considering the serious security problems that these weapons pose. On the contrary, the developed countries concentrate on proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, which could pose a danger to their own security.

Currently, the weapons of mass destruction pose less significant danger to civilian life since their application and effects are not of any important political significance. The results of application of such weapons are likely to be massive destruction with no political gain. People with greed for power use small arms to facilitate their ends. In accumulation of firearms in a country with questionable, political integrity is likely to cause a grave humanitarian crises in case of the collapse of the prevailing government.

Moreover, arms industries are located in developed countries in the west and the Far East and have a capability of controlling the arms trade. A paradox emerges where these countries export weaponry including military aircraft and naval war equipment to war torn regions while the domestic applications of these weapons are nil.

The control of the trade in conventional arms is difficult to establish since the weaponry is usually accepted standard weaponry that is necessary for national security unlike the weapons of mass destruction that can only be used for destruction. The purchase of arms to ensure national security is given priority over the more important domestic security for the civilian population. Increased arms trade has always resulted into grossly adverse humanitarian conditions (Maze et al. 7).

Recently, the arms manufacturing and trade have been shifted from the control of the authorities to private entrepreneurs. The capitalist policies the entrepreneurs thrive on compel them to sell their weaponry to any willing buyer of the product. The arms dealer does not make a consideration of the effects of the weapons in the societies where the weapons are going to be used. To worsen the security situation, some governments have offered credit facilities to arms dealers to expand their trade.

In addition, the government controlled the trade, such that the end user of the weapons was determined under the influence of the authorities. In this essence, the government of the purchasing nations and the selling nations was promoting arms proliferation for use in armed conflicts.

The armed conflicts obviously degenerated to poor security and grave humanitarian crises. Since arms trade is an important aspect of security situations in many countries, the government is usually a major player in the manufacturing and sale of weapons.

In Africa, which is the continent that is affected by most of the arms trade, there are few manufacturers of arms who are concentrated in South Africa. Small arms industries in Africa differ with similar setups in the rest of the world. To avoid the risk of small arms getting into the hands of illegal groups and criminals, and people with malicious intent, the governments of the concerned countries closely monitor the arms industry in African countries.

The chances that a weapon manufactured in Africa got into the hands of criminals are very slim. Most illegal guns in Africa have been manufactures in other continents, and are channeled to the market through illegal trade. Some of local gunsmiths in areas affected by armed conflicts produce guns without any license.

The illegal manufacturers are capable of producing guns of an industrial standard. Armed militia and criminals acquire the guns through illegal trade with the manufacturers. Smuggling of firearms across borders by illegal traders is also common in many parts of Africa (Dizard and Andrews 27).

The end of the major world conflicts such as the World War and the Cold War marked the beginning of smaller kind of conflicts that relied on small arms. It is during this period that the developed nations have exported large numbers of weapons to the poorer states without minding the conflict that these weapons fuel. Wars provide a period of intense manufacturing by gun industries but do not necessarily mean more profit for the gun manufacturers.

However, most of conflicts around the world have been preceded by accumulation of armaments, which obviously come from the arms manufacturers. Governments constantly support the arms industry in order to develop more sophisticated weaponry, and this indirectly fuels conflicts around the world (Malcom 28). In addition, developed countries have offered arms deals to less equipped countries in orders to obtain political favors such the consent to put up military bases in the said countries.

The arms provided to the countries cannot be effectively monitored to ensure that they are not used in any unconventional manner that causes unnecessary breach of security. The sale of arms has gradually shifted to the developing nations due to increasing conflict in those countries. Combined social, economic, and political pressure in these countries has often led to armed conflicts. Moreover, the presence of a large number of weapons and ammunition has also fuelled armed conflicts for a protracted period.

Proliferation of arms by the third world countries was encouraged by the Cold War largely. The communist countries supplied a great deal of arms to their spheres of influence while the western capitalist countries supplied weapons to the third world countries that embraced the capitalist ideology.

This competition fuelled wars especially in Vietnam, Angola and Korea (“Small arms survey 2006” 14). The shipment of weapons to the countries was because of the intent of the leaders of the western block and the eastern block to influence the outcome of the war without committing any military personnel to the conflict.

In the late twentieth century, the world superpowers manufactured and sold weapons to the countries of the Far East and Asia in a bid to gain control of the oil producing nations of the continent. The two leading antagonists in the Cold War armed the fighting factions in the Arab world in order to gain control the oil producing regions of the continent. A sudden end of the Cold War had also other adverse effects concerning the arms trade.

Stockpiles of weapons that the Soviet Union had accumulated in anticipation of a major confrontation with the United States were now useless (Forsberg 20). The Russians sold the arms to any buyer at any price to recover the money spent on arms during the cold war.

The influx of weapons into these countries resulted into periods of high insecurity as opposing factions in the recipient states fought one another in a bid to control mainly the oil reserves in their territories. In the twenty first century, the purchase of weapons by the third world powers declined as the ideological influence that had been fuelling conflict subsided (Kafi 17).

One can make an analysis of the history of firearm trade and manufacturing and conclude that several factor contributed to the proliferation of weapons in areas of conflict. Most of the reasons for proliferation of the firearms have been economic ends. A symbiotic relationship exists between the manufacturing and sale of weapons, and the state of insecurity and war.

Where the weapons have been used in full-blown warfare, the manufacturing and sale of weapons seem to play a minor role in propagation of the war. In other words, the war seems to draw the arms dealers into lucrative a trade that the arms dealers cannot ignore (Malcom 18). One can make a conclusion that the manufacture of weapons does not necessarily mean occurrence of an armed conflict in the areas in which these weapons are used.

It has been seen that most of the purchases of the weapons by states with stable governments are intended for maintenance of peace and guarding of the sovereignty of the country. However, the accumulation of weapons leads to a protracted military confrontation in case of a future crisis. Desire by some countries to gain economic advantage pushed them to selling weapons to states that had questionable political integrity without investigating or ensuring that the weapons were to be used for an appropriate cause (Malcom 2002).

Another observation is most of the weapon’s manufacture that occurred in the twentieth century was initiated and financed by the antagonistic world powers fighting for superiority of their economic, social and political ideologies.

The phenomenon is manifested in the conflicts that occurred in the third world countries in the height of the cold war. The supply of the weapons used in conflicts was not a result of the demand by the conflict, but the protracted conflicts were a result of the supply of free arms supplied by the influential western and eastern superpowers (Brennan 9).

Another observation indicates that the manufacture and sale of weapons influence the state of domestic security. Manufacture and sale of more weapons result in heightened domestic insecurity. This is because the proliferation of weapons by civilians leads to higher tendency to commit crime (World Council of Churches 2001).

Furthermore, acquisition of the firearms by civilians occurs because of thee irresponsibility of the manufacturing companies when handling sales of the weapons. Privatization of the arms industry has increased competition for market making competitor weapons manufacturers result in rogue means of gaining advantage in the market (Hughes and Lai 10).

Due to the sophisticated nature of criminal and villain activity, it is not possible to cease manufacture and sale of firearms or weapons. Accumulation of a reasonable amount of weapons keeps the world powers in balance and, thus, a minimum amount of weaponry has to be maintained for the sake of sovereignty. In this regard, if measures are taken to ensure that the weapons manufacturers sell their weapons through proper secure channels, the case of insecurity due to the activities of the arms industry can be contained (Gerdes 15).

Although the arms industry is primarily a business venture, it comes with a responsibility to control the identity of the end user of their products, as they are lethal commodities.

In addition, the government should control the industry to rein capitalistic tendencies from overtaking the responsibility of the arms industry to be mindful of the nature of the market for their weapons. The arms industry cannot be categorized as normal business enterprise subject to the market forces alone, since their goods need a high degree of accountability (Laurance 24).

It is disputable that firearms are a product in high demand. However, this demand has to be satisfied partially for the sake of peace and security. If the weapons manufacturers seek to satisfy every person’s needs, then, anarchy, violence and general insecurity is likely to prevail in the world.

In conclusion, arms, in whatever form, generally contribute to insecurity in the world. If arms were not presented at all in the society, then violence would be much less scale and peace would prevail (Madariaga 32). The other conclusion is that arms are not a normal commodity subject to normal mechanisms of the market and, thus, their sale must be governed by special rules.

Works Cited

Brennan, Sean. Treaty. Annandale. N.S.W.: Federation Press, 2005. Print.

Cukier, Wendy, and Victor W. Sidel. The global gun epidemic: from Saturday night specials to AK-47s. Westport, Conn.: Praeger Security International, 2006. Print.

Deng, Francis Mading, and I. William Zartman. Conflict resolution in Africa. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1991. Print.

Diamond, Jared M.. Guns, germs, and steel: the fates of human societies. NY: W.W. Norton & Co., 1999. Print.

Dizard, Jan E., Robert M. Muth, and Stephen P. Andrews. Guns in America: a reader. NY: New York University Press, 1999. Print.

Forsberg, Randall. The arms production dilemma. Cambridge (Mass.): the MIT press, 1994. Print.

Gerdes, Louise I. Gun violence: opposing viewpoints. Framington Hills, Mich.: Greenhaven Press, 2011. Print.

Hughes, Christopher W., and Yew Meng Lai. Security studies: a reader. London: Routledge, 2011. Print.

Kafi, Sharif A. Illegal small arms and human insecurity in Bangladesh. 2nd ed. Dhaka: Bangladesh Development Partnership Centre, 2005. Print.

Laurance, Edward J.. The international arms trade. New York: Lexington Books, 1992. Print.

Madariaga, Salvador de. Disarmament. NY: Coward-McCann, inc., 1929. Print.

Malcolm, Joyce Lee. Guns and violence: the English experience. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2002. Print.

Maze, Kerry, and Sarah Parker. International assistance for implementing the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects: findings of a global survey. New York: United Nations, 2006. Print.

World Council of Churches. ‘Report of the United Nations Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects’, 2001, p. 3879.

Small Arms Survey. Small Arms Survey 2006: Unfinished business. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. Print.

Spitzer, Robert J. The politics of gun control. 2nd ed. NY: Chatham House Publishers, 1998. Print.

Stohl, Rachel J., and Suzette Grillot. The international arms trade. Cambridge: Polity, 2009. Print.

UNIDIR, UN. European action on small arms and light weapons and explosive remnants of war: final report. Geneva: UN, UNIDIR, 2006. Print.

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