Academic journal article International Journal on World Peace

Impact of the Global Arms Trade in Somalia (2000-2014): A Descriptive Analysis

Academic journal article International Journal on World Peace

Impact of the Global Arms Trade in Somalia (2000-2014): A Descriptive Analysis

Article excerpt


How can global arms trade be theoretically examined? Because of the commercial aspects of arms trade, the majority analysts give reference to economic theories. However, since one of the aims of this study is to understand the phenomenon by its impact on the socio-political spheres, economic approaches are not sufficient to explain the intended dimensions of the arms trade. However, there are very few relevant theoretical attempts to identify socio-political impacts of arms trade.

One of the most well-known studies is Kinsella's effort to understand the arms trade by employing power transition theory, using concepts structured for social network analysis (Kinsella 2004). Kinsella tries to understand the global arms trade as a network rather than a market (Kinsella 2004, p.12) and thus he has a less deterministic approach. Structure in a network is multidimensional and therefore it has to be examined by a multidisciplinary approach; in a market, profit expectations are the most important determinant and then arms trade is reduced to market forces.

Kinsella mentions that leadership, conflicts for leadership, and coalitions between actors in the global system are explained in the power transition theory, and are more or less realities of the arms trade between countries and groups (Kinsella 2004. p.l). This means that global arms trade is a part of the global system. Particularly, the arms trade is one of the most important indicators of international coalitions, and it reflects the actual reality more than formal alliances.

Multidimensional and multidisciplinary approaches to this matter should create a base for more humanitarian perspectives. But, unfortunately, the arms traded for purposes of defense often get used to launch attacks and kill human beings. Pure economic theories, that only see the arms trade as a market phenomenon, are blind to the humanitarian impact. Similarly, any one-dimensional description will not be sufficient to explain some aspects of arms flow. For example, selling of arms to one group or country means to support them socially and politically at the same time (Kinsella 2004, pp.1-2). Thus, arms seller groups and countries could be treated as responsible, to some extent, for the crimes perpetrated by those arms. This can be the basis of an international controlling mechanism. Holding arms traders responsible could be one considerable measure to help reduce the numbers of wars and mass killings.

However, receiving groups and countries are not desperate to find alternatives to murder and conquest (e.g., use other tools and methods to resolve conflict) unless they can overcome enmities that are the main cause of demand for weapons. These enmities are not market driven, and can refute a purely economic argument. So long as conditions apply in which all sides distrust one another and are motivated to obtain weapons for their own security, and/or in order to dominate others in absence of a legitimate/functional state in their territory, they will be motivated to get them from anyone, either from political allies or from dealers purely seeking a profit. In this regard, the theory may pose a false dichotomy between arms "networks" and arms "profiteers."

While it is a good thing to try to curb gun flow and prosecute offenders, it seems like it might be a bit like prohibition in the U.S. in the 1930s. So long as there is a demand for something, people will find a way to procure it, legally or illegally. Thus removal of the causes of the demand for weapons is more urgent and vital than prohibitions and prosecutions only for arms control. And in this sense an emphasis solely on arms control as a solution in itself might be one-sided, unless other factors are taken into account. Moreover, the category of "arms seller groups and countries" should be classified at least into two clusters: (1) as sellers of registered conventional weaponry systems, like tanks, artilleries, war aircraft to pluralist (not only majoritarian) democratic regimes or freedom fighter groups under certain conditions, and (2) sellers of unchecked small arms and light weapon systems (that are the more considered arms throughout this study of weapons in Somalia) like handguns, assault and sniper rifles, grenades, mines, machine guns, mortars, bazookas, and personally portable missile and rocket launcher systems, to illegal networks, rebel groups, guerrillas, and terrorist groups, or oppressive/illegitimate autocratic regimes across the world. …

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