Conclusions and Implications for U.S. Policy

  • William J. Durch


The arms trade is a particularly vexing problem for those who would curtail it, as it both reflects and exploits the fundamental political organization of the globe. Politics is about power, status, and security, and armaments contribute power, status, and security to a state and its military institutions. Since the state historically has been the ultimate user of organized violence as well as society’s ultimate defender against violence from other states, conventional arms are to it what a good set of pipe wrenches are to a plumber, namely the tools of its trade. The distribution of those tools at a discount in the first quarter-century of Cold War that followed World War II served the political interests of one or the other camp in that competition. Cash sales thereafter rode the boom in oil prices, and the arms trade became a lucrative economic enterprise as well. Because that trade has served both the political and economic interests of supplier states, it has proven particularly resistant to supply-side controls. Because the arms trade has catered to recipient states’ security wants and needs as well, demand-side restraint has been slow to arise. Since the late 1980s and the end of most subsidized arms sales, the most effective constraint on demand has been economic recession, not political action or reconciliation.


Democratic Governance Ballistic Missile Security Complex Regional Peace Southern Africa Development Community 
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© The Century Foundation, Inc. 2000

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  • William J. Durch

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