The U.K. is a major league arms manufacturer. Although it’s “only” fourth on the top ten list [bar chart after the jump], arms sales are the island nation’s number one earner. I repeat: the UK makes more money from selling weapons than it does from any other export. If Britain’s champagne socialists pulled the plug on the arms trade the country’s economy would collapse; they’d be drinking cheap plonk for the rest of their lives. So when some clever clogs “uncovered” the fact that her Majesty’s government had OK’ed sales of bad things to bad people, the press and some MPs got their proverbial knickers in a twist. A bit. Only not really . . .
The Associated Press reveals the crocodile tears shed over the arms trade to Libya and Yemen in an obligatory British parliamentary report . . .
British lawmakers issued a critical report Tuesday showing that Britain approved sales of shotguns and tear gas to Libya, machine-guns and sniper rifles to Bahrain and military technology to Yemen over the last three years.
Parliament’s foreign affairs, defence, international development and business committees said in a joint report that ministers failed to consider the implications of weapons sales to the Middle East and elsewhere.
“Both the present government and its predecessor misjudged the risk that arms approved for export to certain authoritarian countries in North Africa and the Middle East might be used for internal repression,” the report said.
Or did they . . . Just thinking out loud here . . . Maybe the Ministers signing off on the sales didn’t give a toss whether or not the recipients of British-made sniper rifles, shotguns, missiles and other military goods and services were repressive regimes.
The resulting press coverage only head fakes indignation. Channel 4 presenter Jon Snow starts off with the usual condemnation, and then goes nowhere with it.
CS gas, tear gas, shotguns, smoke hand grenades, stun grenades, and riot ‘control agents’. What a charming pot pourri of anti-protestor equipment.
Where can such a cargo have been destined for? Bahrain, no less. Yes, this was just some of a British defence shipment last year to the beleaguered regal dictatorship . . .
Hindsight is an easy facility. One wonders how many other regimes HMG [her Majesty’s Government] is now assessing to see whether we should still be arming them.
Above all, the MPs conclude, it doesn’t much matter which party is in power in Britain, export permits varied little between one British government and another.
How can you make that judgement anyway? Check this graphic. Forty-one percent of arms sales from 2002 – 2009 went to what the chart pretty much describes as “other.” More to the point, how much democracy do you think you can find amongst “developing countries”?
In fact, you could probably flip that vague tut-tutting about “certain authoritarian countries in North Africa and the Middle East” upside down and wonder if there are ANY countries in North Africa and the Middle East that AREN’T run by authoritarian governments.
Which is, by the way, is a pretty good description of the class-bound Oxbridge elite running the U.K.’s Nanny State. Oh wait; there is one Middle Eastern country that stands out from the pack in terms of democracy: Israel. But then the U.K. hates Israel and the Jewish state sells arms in direct competition with the Brits so they can bloody well piss off, mate.
In the world of realpolitik, you get into bed with some nasty people to assure a supply of oil, maintain political stability (to assure a supply of oil) or some such thing. You sell them weapons, or someone else will. Pretending that isn’t so is just political posturing that fools no one. Except most of the voters.
[Source for charts above: Richard F. Grimmett, CRS Report for Congress; Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 2002-2009]