Pushing the boundaries of morality: The American arms industry

When we think about war and defense our minds commonly go to soldiers, weapons, and violence, yet we neglect all the industry and production behind. We forget that even though war is devastating for most, for some it is a huge revenue. Worldwide, the arms industry is one of the most powerful and profitable ones. However, producing, assembling, and distributing weaponry and armament is not an action that should be taken lightly. The arm industry cannot be considered as a common industry with a simple cost-benefit analysis since the end effect of manufacturing such products is deadly.

The U.S. possess around 750 military bases in at least 80 different countries, it has the largest national defense budget in the world, 4,800 military centers on a global scale and more than 2,150,000 military personnel in active service. Likewise, the U.S. is the country with the most successful arms companies, they alone account for the 61% of sales of arms and weaponry globally. Therefore, are these statistics just a coincidence? Is it just out of nationalistic love? Of course not. The United States of America is a country that relies in the war industry for their economic growth and uses it as well as a pinpoint for their foreign policy.

The U.S. arms industry possess a strong and close alliance with the government since President George Washington. Nowadays, governmental authorities in the U.S. allow the arms industries and contractors to flourish due the amount of money this brings to the country. The sales in 2019 amounted to 361billion U.S. dollars, which at the same time, it was the 3.2% of their Gross Domestic Product.  Nevertheless, when money is involved, humanity always pushes the boundaries of morality. By dealing with products that their sole reason to exist is kill, ethical questions cannot be avoided. Which takes us to a very important inquiry: the weapons produced that are not for the American ‘needs’, to whom are they being sold and under what regulations?

Nowadays, the main clients of the U.S. arms production are from the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Currently, Saudi Arabia is the main buyer who annually spends around 1,389 million U.S. dollars. Thus, the U.S. is selling arms to non-democratic countries and regimes that are known for repressing their population with violence and force. And, although direct sales to certain countries, such as China and Iraq, are not permitted, American arms end up in those countries disregarding  because other countries export them. With all this in mind, how can the responsibility of what those arms end up being used for be only in the hands of the soldiers that bear them. It is naive to believe and act like arms manufacturers and traders are not propagating and encouraging the killing of human beings.

In addition, global efforts have been done to try regulating manufacturers and contractors, but despite them, the U.S. continues, and will continue, to act driven by profits, no matter what. The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) was adopted in April of 2013 by the General Assembly of the United Nations, even so, its effect was close to irrelevant because the strongest countries that produce arms have not signed and ratified the treaty; within those, the United States of America. It seems like, suddenly the strong discourse of human rights and freedom characteristically of American politics, is left behind.

At the end of the day, when so much money is made by manufacturing products that their only objective is to kill and attack other human beings, it is inevitable to think that war is provoked to certain extent; if there is more need for weapons and more market, more money will be generated. Likewise, it cannot be ignored thar every time the economy of the U.S. has had any sort of issue, it has been solved by going to war and creating profit out of it. For that reason, it seems like, at least in the case of the United States, the arms industry is part of the American nation-state identity. Then, putting in evidence the hypocrisy of their actions at a local and global level. Nonetheless, we must ask ourselves if there is a legitimate way of selling weapons and if certain killings are justified.

Martha Garcia
Martha Garcia
Martha Garcia Torres Landa has a bachelor's degree in International Relations at the Tecnologico de Monterrey University in Queretaro, Mexico. During her undergraduate degree she has specialized in conflict and peace studies. Likewise, she has taken several creative writing courses and workshops in both Mexican universities and abroad. Her research interests include feminism, social activism, World History and Human Rights.