Avatar of admin


A New Framework for Assessing the Risks from U.S. Arms Sales

June 13, 2018 in Economics

By A. Trevor Thrall, Caroline Dorminey

A. Trevor Thrall and Caroline Dorminey

In the past two years, Congress has tried (and failed) twice to halt American arms
sales to Saudi Arabia in response to that country’s
intervention in Yemen’s civil war. This level of concern is
historically unusual. Arms sales rarely spur much debate in
Washington, where they are viewed as a critical tool of American
foreign policy. The traditional refrain holds that arms sales
promise leverage over recipient countries, help the United States
support allies and manage regional balances of power, and generate
economic benefits to boot. With some exceptions, few have challenged the wisdom of
American arms sales practices.

In a recent study for the Cato Institute, however, we argue
that the government’s approach to arms sales is misguided.
The United States accepts as given the potential benefits of
selling weapons while underestimating or simply ignoring the
potential risks. The result has been too many arms sales to too
many countries where the risks are likely to outweigh the benefits.
Between 2002 and 2016, America delivered $197 billion worth of major
conventional weapons, equipment, and training through its Foreign
Military Sales program to 167 states worldwide. It is difficult to
imagine what sort of process would rate so many of the
world’s roughly 200 countries as safe bets to receive
American weapons. Indeed, using a “risk index” we
created to assess U.S. arms sales, we found that in this time
period, the average dollar value of U.S. arms sales per nation to
the riskiest states was higher than to the least risky states. Even
more disturbing was our finding that 32 of the 167 recipients had
risk index scores higherthan the average score of the 16
nations currently banned from purchasing American weapons.

For the United States to make more responsible use of arms
sales, the approval process needs to change. And though our initial
study focused on arms sales, the logic is the same for arms
transfers (where the United States provides weapons to states or
groups at no cost). There are often compelling reasons to consider
providing weapons even (and sometimes especially) to risky clients,
but the United States should account more carefully for both the
benefits and the costs. The easiest place to start is cases of
sales and transfers to nations engaged in conflict, fragile states,
or states with poor human rights records, as well as in cases that
do not directly enhance American national security. In these cases,
the approval process should be more transparent, the bar for
approval should be higher, and the government should do more to
monitor weapons …read more

Source: OP-EDS

Leave a reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.