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Alice Keeney/AP

U.S. Increases Foreign Arms Sales

September 17, 2008 06:58 AM
by Lindsey Chapman
The United States is doing billions of dollars more in foreign arms deals than it did just a few years ago.

Helping Alliances, Fighting Terrorism

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As it tries to secure alliances, continue its work against terrorism and “contain North Korea and Iran,” the United States has significantly increased its foreign sale of weapons, according to The New York Times. During the current fiscal year, the Department of Defense has agreed to approximately $32 billion in arms sales and transfers with other countries, compared with $12 billion in 2005.

A considerable number of weapons are going to the Middle East. For example, the United States recently agreed to sell anti-armor and air bombs to the Israeli military. At first, there was concern that Israel would use the weapons against Iran. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency later reported that the sale was “vital to the U.S. national interests to assist Israel to develop and maintain a strong and ready self-defense capability,” according to the World Tribune.

There is concern about how weapons will be used once other countries possess them. Travis Sharp, a military policy analyst for the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation pointed out to the Times that “weapons, unfortunately, don’t have an expiration date.” Meanwhile, Air Force deputy under secretary Bruce S. Lemkin asked, “Would you rather they bought the weapons and aircraft from other countries?”

The transactions are “about building a more secure world,” Lemkin said. Not everyone agrees. “Sure, this is a quick and easy way to cement alliances,” William Hartung, an arms control specialist for the New America Foundation told the Times. “But this is getting out of hand.”

Background: Up in Arms

As President Ronald Reagan worked to eliminate communism, he took a particular interest in helping the Contras in Nicaragua, people he called “the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers.” Providing support to the Contras became difficult after Democrats dominated the 1982 congressional elections, however. Undeterred, President Reagan told National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane, “I want you to do whatever you have to do to help these people keep body and soul together.” The series of events that followed would later be known as the Iran-Contra Affair.

In 2001, President Bush was forced to defend a decision to sell a variety of weapons to Taiwan. Even though China lodged a formal protest about the decision, President Bush and Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian said the move was necessary to help the island nation protect itself.

Earlier in 2008, some people were confused at the United States decision to allow Pakistan to use counterterrorism resources to upgrade F-16 fighter jets purchased from the United States. This reversed an earlier plan to freeze sales because of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program.

Related Topic: United States defense

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