Time to Control Arms Sales

Article excerpt

Unfortunately, after more than a year in office, the Clinton administration has failed to keep its promise to curb arms sales abroad. Instead, American arms sales continue to grow apace.

According to the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, the United States is now the world's largest arms exporter. Between 1981 and 1991, the United States doubled its share of arms exports, with a heavy emphasis on sales to Third World nations, particularly in the Middle East and Asia, two of the world's most dangerous trouble spots.

To be sure, these figures reflect a long-standing commitment to both Israel and the moderate Arab states to help maintain the military balance in the region. But selling weapons to Brazil, Singapore and South Korea, for instance, is much harder to justify.

Worse, although permitting arms to be sold with abandon may help maintain the financial health and employment rolls of American defense contractors, doing so is costly for taxpayers. The Pentagon has become a leading salesman for the industry. In fact, the government spends some $500 million a year promoting arms exports and finances their purchase to the tune of another $3.2 billion in grants and $800 million in subsidized loans.

That doesn't even count the foreign aid Washington gives to arms-buying nations, some of which is indirectly used to finance those purchases. …