The No-Nonsense Guide to the Arms Trade

Burrows, Gideon
Publisher:  Between the Lines
Year Published:  2002
Pages:  144pp   Price:  $15.00   ISBN:  1-896357-60-1
Resource Type:  Book
Cx Number:  CX7157

A review of the increasingly prolific global arms trade and its economic, political and social impact on exploited and vulnerable nations.

Burrows explains that military, government and corporate entities together form a powerful, legitimate authority. A government will support its military by organizing laws to better facilitate international trade. Current trade agreements like NATO and the European Framework Agreement have consequences for the movement of weapons. Organized arms fairs operate as both a showcase and a venue to strengthen business relationships. Burrows details a list of warring nations that are regular attendees, despite claims of exhibition hosts that they are not willing to trade with undemocratic or human rights abusing countries. Though suppliers try to make strategic deals, shifting political relationships mean that a country may supply weapons to a future enemy.

Arms tend to be re-sold to progressively poorer countries that have lax import and environmental laws. De-regulated trade has allowed some African nations to purchase arms and prioritize war efforts over social stability and public health. Other valuable commodities include torture equipment, restraints, electroshock devices, chemicals and gas, which are often traded without stipulation for their use. Burrows argues that by fueling known violence and oppression, suppliers legitimate undemocratic regimes and indirectly condone human rights abuses.

The illegal arms trade is heavily dependent on its legal counterpart and neither are regulated by an independent monitor. Lack of market transparency obscures the value of deals and so bribes, incentives and excessive hospitality are easily hidden. Research, personnel, arms and other non-essential materials are trafficked legally by governments and illegally by hired mercenaries and private military companies.

In recent years, the UN and some NGOs have worked to abolish or regulate the arms trade and have met with some success. Burrows presents several activist groups and the steps they have taken toward this end.

This book cites relevant worldwide examples of countries involved in the arms trade and explains the history of each case. It is an informative and comprehensible guide to the arms trade that is perfect for those who do not have a political science background.

[Abstract by Heather Skelton]

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