Home/Daniel Larison/Trump’s Arms Sales Boasts and the War on Yemen

Trump’s Arms Sales Boasts and the War on Yemen

Donald Trump and King Salman sign statement in Riyadh (Ninian Reed/Flickr)

William Hartung responds to Trump’s boasting about U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia:

If Trump’s presentation at the White House sparks a debate about the role of jobs considerations in U.S arms sales policy, it may actually do some good. The bottom line is that creating U.S. jobs should play no role in deciding which countries to lavish with U.S. weaponry, for several reasons [bold mine-DL].

Potential arms deals should be driven by basic foreign policy questions, not pork-barrel politics. Security and human rights should be the main criteria used by the executive branch and the Congress in deciding which nations should be eligible to receive U.S. weapons, which Trump has described as “the finest military equipment anywhere in the world.”

A relative handful of jobs created by weapons sales are not worth the lives lost, the infrastructure destroyed, and the enemies made by the later use of U.S.-made weapons abroad. As Hartung notes, “weapons spending is virtually the least effective way to create jobs,” so the alleged benefits to American workers are much smaller than they seem. Even if they weren’t, it is still wrong and contrary to our interests to export weapons when we know that they will be used to kill civilians and commit violations of international law. In the case of the Saudis and the other Gulf states involved in the war on Yemen, we can be certain that most of the weapons being sold will be used to prosecute that war and many of the others will be employed for the purposes of internal repression. It should never be the policy of our government to arm regimes that are attacking their neighbors, and the U.S. certainly shouldn’t be enabling the war crimes of those regimes in any case.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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