America Dominant Again (in Arms Sales)Roundup
tags: foreign policy, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, militarism, military industrial complex
When it comes to trade in the tools of death and destruction, no one tops the United States of America.
In April of this year, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) published its annual analysis of trends in global arms sales and the winner — as always — was the U.S. of A. Between 2016 and 2020, this country accounted for 37% of total international weapons deliveries, nearly twice the level of its closest rival, Russia, and more than six times that of Washington’s threat du jour, China.
Sadly, this was no surprise to arms-trade analysts. The U.S. has held that top spot for 28 of the past 30 years, posting massive sales numbers regardless of which party held power in the White House or Congress. This is, of course, the definition of good news for weapons contractors like Boeing, Raytheon, and Lockheed Martin, even if it’s bad news for so many of the rest of us, especially those who suffer from the use of those arms by militaries in places like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel, the Philippines, and the United Arab Emirates. The recent bombing and leveling of Gaza by the U.S.-financed and supplied Israeli military is just the latest example of the devastating toll exacted by American weapons transfers in these years.
While it is well known that the United States provides substantial aid to Israel, the degree to which the Israeli military relies on U.S. planes, bombs, and missiles is not fully appreciated. According to statistics compiled by the Center for International Policy’s Security Assistance Monitor, the United States has provided Israel with $63 billion in security assistance over the past two decades, more than 90% of it through the State Department’s Foreign Military Financing, which provides funds to buy U.S. weaponry. But Washington’s support for the Israeli state goes back much further. Total U.S. military and economic aid to Israel exceeds $236 billion (in inflation-adjusted 2018 dollars) since its founding — nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars.
Donald Trump, sometimes referred to by President Joe Biden as “the other guy,” warmly embraced the role of arms-dealer-in-chief and not just by sustaining massive U.S. arms aid for Israel, but throughout the Middle East and beyond. In a May 2017 visit to Saudi Arabia — his first foreign trip — Trump would tout a mammoth (if, as it turned out, highly exaggerated) $110-billion arms deal with that kingdom.
On one level, the Saudi deal was a publicity stunt meant to show that President Trump could, in his own words, negotiate agreements that would benefit the U.S. economy. His son-in-law, Jared Kushner, a pal of Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS), the architect of Saudi Arabia’s devastating intervention in Yemen, even put in a call to then-Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson. His desire: to get a better deal for the Saudi regime on a multibillion-dollar missile defense system that Lockheed was planning to sell it. The point of the call was to put together the biggest arms package imaginable in advance of his father-in-law’s trip to Riyadh.
When Trump arrived in Saudi Arabia to immense local fanfare, he milked the deal for all it was worth. Calling the future Saudi sales “tremendous,” he assured the world that they would create “jobs, jobs, jobs” in the United States.
That arms package, however, did far more than burnish Trump’s reputation as a deal maker and jobs creator. It represented an endorsement of the Saudi-led coalition’s brutal war in Yemen, which has now resulted in the deaths of nearly a quarter of a million people and put millions of others on the brink of famine.