Friday, May 04, 2018

From Britain with Tanks

It is entirely possible that arms sales to Saudi Arabia will be made illegal in Great Britain. The argument for banning arms sales to Saudi Arabia is that they will be used to violate human rights, as this violates Britain’s armed export policies. Is it likely? Not if the current government has anything to say about it. And this failure to enforce one’s own domestic policies on the limiting of arms sales is why the Arms Trade Treaty was doomed from its inception.

The Arms Trade Treaty states that each signatory will take measures, pursuant to its national laws, to regulate brokering taking place within its jurisdiction, such as registration or brokering authorizations. It also suggests that member countries consider regulating brokers by establishing a system that requires registration and licensing of arms sales. The looseness of the agreement open it to violation or "wimpy" standards. Not only does the Arms Trade Treaty have to overcome the actions of a few rogue signatories, but the very guidelines of the agreement mean that a nation is only held to the standard of their own laws. As with the case with Great Britain, even when a country sets their own standards they are often unmet. For this reason, and others, the future of serious crackdown on the illegal arms trade is not very bright.


As we all know, the arms industry depends on war to up its sales. We also know that these sales need supplementation when war is less prevalent at times. Lockheed Martin for example, makes up 86% of the United State’s Defense sales. But if we look to others, we see Russia, from Cold War times, China, France, Germany, the UK, there are billions of dollars accounted for in the defense industry. Most of the top exporters are utilizing private banks to draw in capital and invest or spend in the defense industry. Your shares, your savings, are being revitalized in the arms dealings of the world and out of either paranoia or common sense, you already know that it’s happening. In the past few years, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Colombia, have seeked out weapons obtainment to beef up their arsenals, leading to a spike of sales. Barclays, a British bank, is one to be heavily invested in arms trading. With a portfolio aiding to the industry worth up to $8 billion. In recent years they have shyed away from these numbers due to the backlash of human rights violations attributed to such sales. The initial investments of private banks see more controversial publicity from its patrons because of these irreversible involvements in foreign wars. We could look to the sales of weapons to Saudi Arabia and see the accusations of the international community regarding such atrocities with the Yemen Civil War, for example. When the matter of socio-political advantages merge with the consumer oriented private banks, there is an imbalance of priorities mainly attributed to money. Money, money, money. This is seems to always be the outlying cause of both accusation and involvement. Is there leverage to these predicaments? Yes, because money is how the world still turns apparently in the world of politics. Hence, your need to supply these banks with money to, in the end, supply war. Is this ethical? Is this your role to the current international arena? 

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Final Exam

Diplomacy 750: Defense Statecraft
Final Exam
May 3, 2018

Please answer one of the following three questions:

  1.  Describe the obstacles facing the summit between President Trump and Supreme Leader Kim. In what ways has the military balance shifted in order to enable such a summit? What outcomes are possible? 
  2.  The United States and China continue to struggle over the nature of governance in the South China Sea. What elements of defense statecraft will determine which country’s vision prevails? 
  3. The United States maintains a significant arms export relationship with Saudi Arabia. Outline the thinking behind continuing the export of arms to KSA, and discuss factors that might cause the United States to reconsider its policies in this area.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Should We Trust Israel and Allies With Our Tech?

Israel is perhaps the United States' strongest ally in the world, and we share much military tech with them to aid them in our alliance. Much of this tech is exclusive to Israel, as the United States does not share the same level of technology with other countries that are not as closely aligned. With this, there has been the understanding that the military tech that was sold exclusively to Israel was meant exclusively for israel.
For some time now, however, Israel has been passing this military tech on to China. This brings up many questions for the sales of arms coming out of the United States, and harms the relations between US and Israel in terms of arms sales. If the United States is not willing to sell a certain piece of equipment to China, but will sell to Israel, should the United States change its policy based on past sales from Israel to China?

It certainly means the the US has to be more careful with sales, even to its allies. If there is a piece of tech we’re not willing to let China or other non-allies have, we should seriously reconsider how we distribute that tech to our allies.

Defense Industry Sustainability

According to experts, for the defense industry to sustain itself it needs the pentagon’s budget to grow at an annual rate of 5%. This rate is necessary to sustain the prime vendors and it is unknown how the smaller ones will be affected. President Trump, via executive order , set up a task force which will seek to determine manufacturing capability and the supply-chain integrity of the American Defense Industry. The findings have yet to be made public. The group which conducted the report mentioned initially, the Aerospace Industries Association, will follow up their initial conclusions with a series of war games to estimate the surge capabilities of defense industries in a breakout war scenario. The predictions are grim.

All of this is coming on the heels of the the White House and House Republicans flirting with budget rescission.The lack of proper budgeting has forced the military to cancel training exercises and has hindered long term planning. It has also fostered the degradation of America's defense industry. The inability of Congress to pass a budget over the past several years has prevented the Pentagon's budget from meeting the needs of the defense industrial base. Given the public statements of the White House, the stability and security which came from this budget is called into question. And it is America's defense industrial base which will suffer for it. However, stability and security are overrated, and, in fact, it might be good to keep the defense industry on its toes. I can think of no higher cause than to save a buck or two. Besides, when has under preparedness at the beginning of a conflict ever been a problem anyway?

The Small Arms Trade--Too Close to Home

            When international organizations come together to debate the impact of the cross-border trade of small arms, they often focus on regions of civil war and conflict in Africa and the Middle East.  That allows the US to keep the blame at arm’s reach, but domestic US arms dealers contribute significantly to criminal armed groups in Mexico and Central America.

            In the four years from 2007 to 2011, Mexican authorities interdicted 68,000 guns that the ATF was able to source back to the US, and that only includes weapons that had serial numbers, not weapons assembled in Mexico from unmarked American parts.  The GAO has conducted studies in 2009, but the office needs more reliable data—data which it won’t be able to obtain, since most gun smugglers don’t report their activities to the US government.  

            At least the US has stopped the practice of “gun-walking,” where agencies identify smugglers, let them buy weapons and watch them cross the border in hopes of catching their connection in Mexico.  The US owes it to its neighbors not to let their police be outgunned by criminal gangs, and the US ought to act more forcefully, so the next UN debate doesn’t focus on us.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Arms Sales Between the U.S and Taiwan

Arms sales between the U.S and Taiwan has been became a huge topic for Chinese central government. After Tsai, Ing-wen took over the government in Taiwan, she continued the friendly relationship between the U.S and Taiwan. Moreover, after president Trump administration approved the marketing license required for American manufactures to sell technology to Taiwan that would allow Taiwan to build their own submarines.

It is inevitable that Chinese central government opposed the United States to sell weapons to Taiwan. Specifically, in this April, Taiwan's Ministry of National Defence confirmed the U.S Department of State had agreed to grant the license needed to sell the technology to Taiwan. This makes Taiwan has an ability to build its own submarines.

As we know, Chinese government will never and ever change the "One China" policy, even Taiwan issue could not be easily be solved. Taiwan is still one of the most sensitive political issue for Chinese central government, for Taiwan, being independent is not possible under the President Xi. 

Tsai Ing-wen became the leader of Taiwan and became Chin's hostility. The reason is that she comes form the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party and was elected in 2016. Because of this, China will strengthen to overlook the Taiwan's policy, especially its military policy with the U.S. The reason is that China fears Tsai, Ing-wen push Taiwan's formal independence.

So the Arms sales between the U.S and Taiwan will really intensify the tension between China and Taiwan. Meanwhile, it also will hurt the future relationship between the U.S and China in solving the regional issues. However, for Taiwan, especially for Tsai, Ing-wen's administration, she is eager to gain more supports form the United States and strengthen Taiwan's position in the world.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Cutting Through the Red Tape

Last week, President Trump announced his intentions to change the current, highly bureaucratic, and slow process involved with weapons sales. As the US pushes for even greater arms sales abroad, this brings up a number of questions that the current administration would answer ideally, before the implementation of this new policy. What this will mean for the relationships between the US and various foreign countries? Certainly this will boost revenue for the defense industry but will it actually make the US safer or does it simply increase the possibility that these weapons and technologies will end up in the wrong hands? What is the possibility that these countries will use the weapons acquired against the US in possible future conflicts? Also, is making it easier on the defense industry and foreign countries more important than than maintaining a competitive edge on US technological advances? It is difficult to argue that the current policies are not outdated but there is a concern that in the process to modernize this process, the administration could also increase the risks to US security.
It is also important however, to note the significant economic benefits that could stem from making arms sales to foreign countries more accessible, especially as India looks for a stable partner in arms trade. Since 2008, US weapons sales have increased from around $1 billion to over $15 billion dollars and figures like that cannot be ignored, not only for the consequences that they have on the US economy, but also for emerging cooperation between the US and India. This is an important consideration as the US moves towards a new policy on arms trade in order to maintain a competitive edge over China and Russia. However, lifting restrictions en masse and doing it without a comprehensive strategy and analysis of the possible consequences is not the way to do that.

Should we sell arms to authoritarian countries?

In a world where yearly global arms trade is most likely over $100 billion, should countries care about selling arms to authoritarian regimes?

Should countries directly aid regimes that violate human rights stay in power?

Should countries that proclaim themselves as ethical and restrictive be allowed to go against their statements and sell weapons for money?

What do you do when the very weapons you sold to controversial states end up in the hands of terrorists?

Should we have tighter restrictions on global arms trade?

These are questions that the military-industrial complex and governments should consider.

When countries such as Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Turkey and other countries with numerous human rights violations are the top consumers of the global arms trade, the sellers are directly aiding authoritarian governments to stay in power.

Let's take Saudi Arabia for example. Saudi Arabia is the United States of America's number one arms customer. They have been the first since 2011. According to the United Nations human rights office, since March 2015, Saudi Arabia has murdered at least 5,295 Yemenese civilians and wounded 8,873 Yemenese. In 2017, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights reported that airstrikes (which are mainly sold by the US) remained the single largest cause of civilian casualties.

Without going into the numerous other human rights violations such as the treatment of women and girls, migrant workers, and the utilization of Sharia Law, the fact that US-made bombs are being used to kill innocent Yemenese citizens should ring alarms and cause for an immediate ban on arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

In a world where cash rules everything around us, maybe policymakers and arms dealers should take a moment to think about who their customers are and where their arms are being used before blindly summiting to another paycheck.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Australia Upping It's Defense Game

Australia just announced a new integral Defense Industrial Capability Plan this month, April 2018, which will soon replace the initial framework for expansion in 2009. The Plan has dedicated up to $17 million annually to help create new channels for defense industry contractors. This will support the rising desire for Australia to become a competitive market base for worldwide investors. The implementation of these plans will begin mid-2019. The new framework for defense industry sovereignty is set to, “provide a stronger definition of Australia defense industry…that are providing or have the capacity to provide defense specific or dual-use goods or services in a supply chain that leads to the Australian Department of Defense." 

               The overarching goal of the new plan is to prepare a larger, more capable defense industry by 2028 by means of enhancements in, “skills, expertise, technology, intellectual property, and infrastructure."  This is planned to be achievable from increased defense funding, estimated to grow to be 2 percent of Australian’s GDP by 2021, which will bring in more than $200 billion of new investment over the next decade. 

               In March 2018, a $77.2 million was awarded to Rheinmetall for artillery ammunition. As a part of Australia’s land phase of the new plan, the first shipment will be this year, along with war reserve stocks.  Another deal announced this year was an estimated $150 million to Elbit Systems for Battle Management System Command and Control, codenamed Blue Force Tracker, which will provide friendly units tracking software support. The Sovereign Industrial Capability Priorities, also laid out extensively in the plan are those involved in the operationally critical support, monitoring, maintenance, and management aimed at amping up Australia’s defense strength.  Such priorities outlined include: maintenance and upgrading of the Collins class submarines, shipbuilding continuation, land combat vehicle upgrades, and enhanced radar software. The overall upgrading of all military infrastructure and assets will be implemented by sovereign working groups and backed by a grants program.


Weapons Diplomacy in the 21st Century

The use of the international arms trade as a form of diplomacy is not a new concept.  The concept of utilizing arms to shore up alliances as well as undermine foes is a controversial one.   In the United States, both the practice and the controversy go back decades and can be traced back to the start of the Cold War.

          The arms race of the Cold War didn't just take place in the nuclear silos of the USSR and the U.S.  As the U.S. looked outward to its allies, the arms race took on a conventional flavor in countries like Taiwan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.  In fact, many historians point to Truman's 1947 speech before a joint session of Congress as the defining moment in U.S. foreign policy that codified American military aid to countries, "who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures.” 

Although the Cold War has ended, the competition between the U.S. and its former foe (now Russia) is just starting to heat up again.  The Russians continue to funnel advanced weaponry to Iran and Syria such as the S-300 surface-to-air missile system.

Not to be out done, the U.S. answered back by approving delivery of high-tech weapon systems to its Arab allies such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE.  In addition, the U.S. signaled to its Arab allies that it would not interfere with arms supplies making its way to rebel hands in Syria to fight back against the Shia dominated Assad government.

Although not on the same grand scale as the previous arms race between the two nations, the new conventional arms race will be just as interesting.  The re-emergence of weapons diplomacy is yet another area for the two former foes to duke it out in an effort to undermine the foreign policies and allies of the other.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Drone Market

While the Russia, China, the U.S., and just about every other nation under the sun that makes arms is more than happy to sell them to just about anyone who will buy them, not all of them feel the same way regarding drone technology. Namely, the two big competitors are China and the U.S. One is more than happy to flood the market and sell as many cheap knock offs as they can. The other has been hesitant to open its doors to that market, for a multitude of reasons.
            However, now that drone tech is so prevalent that you can buy them in gas stations, and with a market that is growing exponentially every year, the current administration has pivoted from the stance of the Obama Administration. Justified as being able to level the playing field, increase direct sales to authorized allies and partners, and get into a market that is projected to grow to $50 billion in a decade are all reasons used. With these reasons are also the very real issue of seeing Chinese replicas of American drone tech deployed on runways across the Middle East.
            With this comes several good reasons. Having allied partners and future partners being able to use American drone tech not only gives the US a bigger share of the market, it allows the US to build relationships, and help avoid or minimalize civilian casualties and unneeded destruction by giving higher quality products to them. For example, Washington has been criticized by global rights watchdogs for allowing Saudi Arabia to bomb Yemen, where there have been unnecessary civilian casualties. With perhaps the use of U.S. drone tech and looser restrictions, some of this may be avoided in the future.
            However, this harkens back to past issues and common problems all arms sellers face. What happens when the guys who are on your side now either get wiped out, or turn against you, and are now armed with modern, dangerous tech you supplied them? What if they are careless and lose it, or what if it is stolen by a third party and used against you? Even worse, what if your ally sends the tech out to another nation that isn’t on best of footing with you, and uses it to exploit or find a weakness in it? These issues will continue to exist, and the threat of theft grows when you consider that this piece of tech flies unmanned and has a ranges over hundreds of miles.

Articles Consulted:

Monday, April 23, 2018

Mo' Guns, Mo' Problems for the World?

The United States has been the leading exporter of arms around the world for quite some time. Not only has Washington led the race, it has done so by a substantial margin-almost 31% of total sales are from the US, and the next closest seller, Russia, sits at 24%. The drop off after Russia is drastic, with Germany only taking 9%. The difference between Russia and the US seems close-only a 7% difference or so. However, when considering the size of their economies, GDP, and who they export those weapons to, it is evident how much more Russia is reliant on sales, and how important those sales are to Russia’s economy.

            Selling weapons in mass quantities is nothing new, regardless of what administration it is viewed under. Before Trump, underneath the Obama Administration sales continued to grow, and the growth seems to be continuing underneath President Trump. As with past administrations, having foreign governments purchase arms from the US helps show a form of commitment between the two, but it has always been a balancing act between the U.S. defense industry and national security.  One of the major issues and problems is having weapons and arms outlive the original government who bought them. The United States doesn’t want to be going up against its own weaponry, but this has happened-not only in terms of going against their arms, but also against an enemy that was either trained by the US or trained by a US ally that understands their skills and tactics.

            Preventing the arms ending up in the wrong hands and being used to commit human right violations is always a difficult issue that requires forethought and planning, sometimes that it is impossible to be able to accurately predict. This will continue to be an ever pressing and increasingly difficult issue as the US continues to sell more arms to more people underneath the Trump administration. However, it is not only the U.S. that floods the thirsty market, and the problems that have faced administrations in the past will continue to grow in the immediate future.

News Sources Consulted:




Contracting Overreach: Are H&K’s Eyes Bigger than its Stomach?

            German firearms manufacturer Heckler and Koch is burning the candle at both ends.  The company claims to have increased its manufacturing capacity by 100% since being acquired by private owners in 2002, but the gun giant has acquired a reputation for not making any promises to its commercial dealers about delivery times.  This is probably because the company is fulfilling major military contracts with five separate countries—the Americans, British, French, Dutch, and Germans all have active contracts out with Heckler and Koch.

            When the U.S. Marine Corps put in an order for 50,000 Heckler and Koch M27 Infantry Automatic Rifles last year, it raised speculation that the service might be intending to replace all of its M4 carbines with the M27.  The M27 was designed to replace the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, and although the M27’s limited ammunition supply created a controversy about its efficacy at sustained suppressive fire, its accuracy and lethality at range has helped it to find success in the hands of designated marksmen in the Corps.  50,000 rifles would just be the first step towards replacing the M4 carbine, though, and with Heckler and Koch USA focusing its new Georgian factory on commercial offerings, the question remains—can H&K handle the role it clearly wants, as the sole source of M27 IARs?