Marko Agbaba

MGMT 312: Business Government and Society

Professor Jordi Comas

April 10th, 2012

Boomerang effect

            On July 25th 2007, France announced a major conventional weapons sale to Libya, worth a total of $434 million (Reuters, 2007). The arms deal, the first between any western country and Libya in 2004, consisted of anti-tank missiles worth $230 million and radio communication worth $175 million. Less than six months later, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi visited France and announced a $14.7 billion deal for conventional weapons and nuclear reactors. The deal included Rafale fighter aircrafts, military and attack helicopters, air defense systems, patrol boats and armored vehicles.

The arm deals, like the one between France and Lybia, and their geo-political significance, likely missed the attention of the majority of the world’s population. While headlines describing the dire threats of weapons of mass destruction often dominate the front page of newspapers, the conventional weapons deals often go unnoticed. However, I believe that these conventional weapons cause a far more deadly threat considering they are responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths every year. The conventional arms trade can also create boomerang effect or the situation where countries selling their weapons end up being destroyed by the same weapons.

Throughout history, the conventional arms trade has been driven by conflicts from their conception to their resolution. Significant shifts in the conventional arms trade were influenced by the major world events such as World War I and II, the Cold War, the Gulf War, and the most recent War on Terror. The United States’ practice of selling military machinery to foreign countries is not just a recent incident.  The “Nixon Doctrine” was put forth in a press conference in Guam on July 25, 1969 by former president Richard Nixon. He stated: “the United States henceforth expected its allies to take care of their own military defense, but that the U.S. would aid in defense as requested”(Peters & Woolley, 1969). After this new policy was born, the United States went on a supply spree, sending billions of dollars of weapons around the world, even into the hands of war criminals and dictators.

In 1972, after Nixon took a trip to Iran, he helped facilitate the transaction of selling F-14 Tomcat fighter jets to Iran.  At this point in time, Iran was a United States ally, but the situation soon blew up with political turmoil (Associated Press, 2012).  The Iran Government which the United States had relations with was overthrown and the Iran-Iraq conflict escalated. The government believed that Iran was trustworthy enough to handle the military responsibility of fighter jets, but was proved wrong when their alliance failed.  If the government should have learned anything from this disastrous situation, it should have been the need to fully assess the stability of a country’s situation before producing options for destruction.

However, some lessons are hard to learn. A decade after stopped supplying Iran with conventional weapons, United States found another trading ally – Iraq. Years of arms trading in secret had allowed Saddam Hussein to build up his military by making weapons purchases from many different countries. Between 1985 and 1990, the United States licensed $1.5 billion in military technology for export to Iraq. In addition, Iraq purchased $10 billion of weaponry from Soviet Union and Western Europe (Harting, pg223). Without an international transparency regime, the extent of these sales had gone unnoticed and the size of Saddam’s arsenal was an unpleasant surprise to an unsuspecting international community.

In the immediate aftermath of the Gulf War bloodbath, arms exporters scrambled to help arm the Middle East. Despite the fact that the region had just emerged from a deadly conflict which had been facilitated by a secretive military build-up, many Middle Eastern states still saw Saddam as a threat and were interested in acquiring weapons to defend themselves. The United States were first to respond by arming them sufficiently.

The United States entered Iraq in 2003 with the purpose of determining whether or not they had weapons of mass destruction.  Iraq did not.  Almost a decade later, the United States started to withdraw their troops, but it is unsure if they left the country in a better state than when they initially entered.  The United States Government and Military have been working with Iraq to develop a stable democracy, which has included helping them in the aspects of both politics and war.  With this help package, the United States sold F-16 fighter jets to help the country build a modern army – a move which deontologists may determine to be immoral.

Increased international trade and exchange of ideas has led to great improvements in world economy and open-mindedness, but not all aspects of globalization are good.  International countries and corporations need to act carefully so that their effects do not harm their stakeholders.  Although the United States is not a corporation, they act as one by selling conventional weapons as a product to another country. For that reason, the U.S. should still abide by the same rules that Thomas J. Donaldson set out for international corporations.  Donaldson explains that corporations have the duty to protect those that their actions affect.  One of the duties is to maintain a stakeholders right to physical security (Donaldson, 147).   The United States Government needs to be careful that their actions in Iraq do not affect the physical security of the Iraqi people and the United States soldiers.

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, changed the entire world. Even though the attacks happened on American soil, the foreign and domestic policies of the United States have been altered irrevocably since then. Whether it is spending in the U.S. government, military objectives or even political views on what needed to happen in the months and years following 9/11, everything changed for the American people. The United States sent a significant portion of its military force to fight their former military trading partners. The ironic part is that United States led a war against the Iraqi and Afghani armies that were armed with the weapons exported from the U.S. decades ago. Many of the American soldiers were killed by the weapons that were produced in their own country.

You might wonder why the United States keeps exporting arms to the unstable governments that could one day use US weapons against them. Why does the conventional weapons trade still remain a largely unregulated market? The answer is that conventional weapons are more complicated than those of other weapons systems. Unlike weapons of mass destruction, conventional arms are legitimate tools of governments, militaries, police forces and civilians. Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations recognizes the inherent right of all states to individual or collective self-defense and the right to manufacture, import, export, transfer and retain conventional arms towards that end (NATO, 1945). Thus, regulating and controlling the trade in conventional arms trading poses additional challenges for individual countries and the international community. Furthermore, conventional arms are very profitable. Conventional arms transfer agreements worldwide were worth approximately $60 billion in 2007 (Grimmett, 4).

History repeats itself. After the War on Terror is coming to an end, the United States is attempting to sell military aircrafts to Iraq yet again.  Although they are not the most innovative and advanced planes, they are still an aggressive piece of military equipment that will modernize the military of Iraq (Entous, 2011). With a Iraqi government that has not yet fully gained power over its own country, it is debatable whether or not this sale will help to bring stability to the country or further its destruction.

The fact is that the Iraqi government does not have control of the country.  The original deal to sell the planes last year was actually interrupted by the Arab Spring protests across the region.  The population has continuing social and political divides that maintain this instability.  With a fear that the current government could be overthrown, the United States needs to determine whether or not it is ethically right to provide them with more possibilities for destruction.  The United States should look at every stakeholder in the transaction, which would include the Iraqi people.  In order to further their society, they need better education systems, increased equality between sexes, and more political freedom.  Acquiring new fighter jets will not increase these rights and may in fact cause more turmoil by introducing more sophisticated weaponry to the country.  It should therefore be the duty of the American Government and Military to consider these potential disadvantages and help to protect the stakeholders affected by their actions.

Nike was in a similar position when they were doing business in China and got caught up in the corruption of their supplier’s factories.  They were indirectly responsible for the inhumane treatment of factory employees by providing revenue to the factories and therefore feeding the system of political and social instability.  This is similar to the United States in Iraq because although they are not causing the riots, they are providing war and weapons that continue to feed the system of instability and political disarray.  The United States Government is not technically an international corporation, but they do business abroad and should therefore follow the same list of Donaldson’s list of fundamental international rights.  This includes the duty to maintain a stakeholder’s right to physical security (Donaldson, 147).  The duty to protect physical security is not just to the stakeholders in Iraq, but also around the world, including United States soldiers.  If the government in Iraq gets overturned, similar to Iran’s in the 1970s, they could use our own military weapons against the United States. Using Donaldson’s deontological approach to international corporations’ duties would help the United States to evaluate whether or not the deal is morally right.  As for now, we can all just hope that Iraq’s government is able to maintain stability of their own country and that the United States fighter jets don’t end up in the wrong hands again.

Throughout this case, I tried to highlight the role in international arms trade of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia and Germany – the five largest arms exporters in the world. Ironically, these five countries are also the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, and are responsible for nearly 80% of the entire international arms trade.

From deaths and injuries, to the undermining of human security, the uncontrolled conventional arms trade has put peacekeepers in danger, diminished national and multinational business opportunities, hampered sustainable development and, overall, negatively affected global peace and security. Successfully implementing the sale of fighter jets or any other conventional weapons in the future should be done carefully and only after there is proper evaluation of the country demanding weapons and its political, social, and economic stability. By doing that, we can also avoid the boomerang effect and prevent U.S. soldiers dying from the weapons produced by their own country.


    Source: SIPRI Arms Transfers Database

 The pie chart above shows how global arms imports are divided around the world. The percentage shows the country’s share of total world arms exports, for the period 2006–2010.

Works Cited

Thompson Reuters. “France’s Trade With Libya Growing Fast”. REUTERS, 25 Jul. 2007. Web. 09 Apr. 2012.   france-libya-trade-idUSL2573034520070725

Donaldson, Thomas J. “Rights in the Global Market.” Multinational Corporate Responsibility: 139-62. Print

Richard Nixon: “Address to the Nation on the War in Vietnam,” November 3, 1969. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. Web. 09 Apr. 2012.

Associated Press. “Pentagon Ends Jet Parts Sales to Iran –US News – Military –” – Breaking News, Science and Tech News, World News, US News, Local News – MSNBC, 31 Jan. 2007. Web. 09 Apr. 2012.–parts-sales-iran/

Hartung, Wiliam D., And Weapons for All. New York: HarperCollins. 1994. 214-56. Print

NATO/OTAN. “NATO – Official text: Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, 24-Oct.-1945.” NATO – Homepage. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2012.

Richard F. Grimmett, Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations 2000-2007. Washinton, DC: Congresional Research Service. p. CRS-4. Print

Entous, Adam, and Nathan Hodge. “Iraq Completes Deal to Buy F-16s –” Business News & Financial Nws – The Wall Street Journal – Wall Street Journal, 27 Sept. 2011. Web. 09 Apr. 2012.

Goebel, Greg. “The Grumman F-14 Tomcat.” In The Public Domain. 1 June 2003. Web. 19 Apr. 2012.


One response »

  1. Jordi says:

    What pie chart?

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