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The Pentagon as a Global NRA: For Washington, There Is No Arms Control Abroad

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A Second Amendment World, Pentagon-Style

It's a given that every American foreign policy crisis turns out to be yet another opportunity for the Pentagon to plug U.S. weapons systems into the "needs" of its allies, and for the weapons-makers to deliver.  So, from India to South Korea, Singapore to Japan, the Obama administration's announced 2012 "pivot to" or "rebalancing in" Asia -- an essentially military program focused on containing China -- has proven the latest boon for U.S. weapons sales and weapons-makers.

As Jim Wolf of Reuters recently reported, the Aerospace Industries Association, a trade group that includes Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and other weapons companies, "said sales agreements with countries in the U.S. Pacific Command's area of activity rose to $13.7 billion in fiscal 2012, up 5.4% from a year before. Such pacts represent orders for future delivery." As the vice president of that association put it, Washington's Asian pivot "will result in growing opportunities for our industry to help equip our friends."  We're talking advanced jet fighters, missile systems, and similar major weapons programs, including F-35s, F-16s, Patriot anti-missile batteries, and the like for countries ranging from South Korea to Taiwan and India.

All of this ensures the sharpening of divides between China and its neighbors in the Pacific amid what may become a regional arms race.  For the Pentagon, it seems, no weaponry is now off the table for key Asian allies in its incipient anti-China alliance, including advanced drones.  The Obama administration is already brokering a $1.2 billon sale of Northrop Grumman's RQ-4 "Global Hawk" spy drones to South Korea.  Recently, it has been reported that Japan is preparing to buy the same model as its dispute sharpens with China over a set of islands in the East China Sea.  (The Obama administration has also been pushing the idea of selling advanced armed drones to allies like Italy and Turkey, but -- a rare occurrence -- has met resistance from Congressional representatives worrying about other countries pulling a "Washington": that is, choosing its particular bad guys and sending drone assassins across foreign borders to take them out.)

Here's the strange thing in the present gun control context: no one -- not pundits, politicians, or reporters -- seems to see the slightest contradiction in an administration that calls for legal limits on advanced weaponry in the U.S. and yet (as rare press reports indicate) is working assiduously to remove barriers to the sale of advanced weaponry overseas. There are, of course, still limits on arms sales abroad, some imposed by Congress, some for obvious reasons.  The Pentagon does not broker weapons sales to Iran, North Korea, or Cuba, and it has, for example, been prohibited by Congress from selling them to the military regime in Myanmar. But generally the Obama administration has put effort into further easing the way for major arms sales abroad, while working to rewrite global export rules to make them ever more permeable.

In other words, the Pentagon is the largest federally licensed weapons dealer on the planet and its goal -- one that the NRA might envy -- is to create a world in which the rights of those deemed our allies to bear our (most advanced) armaments "shall not be infringed."  The Pentagon, it seems, is intent on pursuing its own global version of the Second Amendment, not for citizens of the world but for governments, including grim, autocratic states like Saudi Arabia which are perfectly capable of using such weaponry to create Newtowns on an unimaginable scale.

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A well regulated militia indeed.

Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project and author of The United States of Fear as well as The End of Victory Culture, his history of the Cold War, runs the Nation Institute's TomDispatch.com. His latest book, co-authored with Nick Turse, is Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter @TomDispatch and join us on Facebook.  Check out the newest Dispatch book, Nick Turse's The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyberwarfare.

Copyright 2012 Tom Engelhardt

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Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's Tomdispatch.com ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch (more...)
 

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