Monday, 3 May 2010

The Arms Trade Equivalency

I hope you'll forgive the Big Bang Theory-esque title but I've been on a bit of a Big Bang Theory bender for the last two weeks.

This is actually a serious topic but the scale of moral bankruptcy at the heart of the international arms trade is so horrendous as to border on the farcical, hence the comedy title. The more one explores this particular business the more one is forced to recognise that this 'civilised' world of ours is so much horse manure. The men and women in this trade aren't evil in the traditional sense of the word though those at the top certainly come close. They have families, they sing lullabys to their kids, give to charitable causes, help old ladies cross the road and when you pass them on the street they, generally speaking, don't reek of brimstone.

And yet they are involved in the most legal-yet-heinous trade imaginable. There are a number of books on the topic as well as this recent expose on how the UK governement has set up a Quango (Quasi non governmental organisation) to facilitate the growth of such companies. When I read the expose I wanted to say to its author, dude, this isn't news. Our government and governments all over the world have been bending over backwards for the arms trade since time immemorial. Despite all the exposes, books & documentaries it has continued, nay, expanded exponentially!

Make no mistake, weapons are necessary. Therefore their trade is necessary. What I'm talking about is the utter lack of regulation or even the whiff of moral guidance at the heart of this trade.

However, when such people are pinned down and asked how they live with themselves when they knowingly sell weapons to regimes with records of gut wrenching human rights abuses they answer, almost to man/woman "Well, if I don't sell them the weapons someone else will. So I may as well make the money and then use it to right all wrongs."

Okay, arms dealers don't say that last bit but governments do. They say, well, the arms trade is a reality that isn't going to change anytime soon. Why would we close off this huge potential revenue for our economy when everyone is in on the game? Let's sell weapons to all and sundry and in addition to then knowing what they have, including strengths and weaknesses, we will have loads of money available to combat their evil in other ways. I mean after all if we don't sell them guns, aircraft, tanks etcetera someone else certainly will.

Here's the bugger though. I can't argue with that. I really want to but the logic seems flawless. If Britain (Her arms dealers anyway), for example, decided to bow out of the unregulated arms trade and agreed to sell weapons only to those who they are confident will use them for self defence or some other morally defensible use, then Britain will lose out billions of pounds and do absolutely nothing, nothing at all, to stop the sale of arms to 'nations of concern'.

And so, Britain makes no effort to change and in fact goes out of its way to support an unregulated arms trade and so does everyone else because there is little point in doing otherwise. In addition, the tax earned on these huge arms deals can be used to support much needed change in countries of concern. Then, should the government have a brief call of conscience and decide to go into said country and clean things up they will be intimately familiar with the weapons being pointed at their soldiers. That last comment is only slightly tongue-in-cheek.

Can anyone answer this question, what is the flaw in the argument presented above? There needs to be flaw!

I can think of one reason to stop the unregulated trade. It's morally wrong to sell weapons to people who will use them for evil purpose regardless of how you'll lose out monetarily. It's really as simple as that, however, I need a counter-argument that will leave a mark on people apparently not swayed by ethical or moral concerns.

We call them politicians.