Target: Ashton Carter, U.S. Secretary of Defense
Goal: Curb sales of advanced weaponry to sectarian proxy wars in the Middle East.
American weapons have been stockpiled throughout the Middle East for years, and as the region descends further into conflict, American arms manufacturers stand to benefit. Demand is expected to increase, and firms like Boeing and Lockheed Martin are looking to fill the void in revenue as the Pentagon budget shrinks. The current administration has relaxed its enforcement of a law that requires Israel to maintain military superiority over its traditional Arab foes (Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan and Egypt), and defense industry officials alerted Congress that they were expecting a request from this coalition to purchase more missiles, bombs, and perhaps the advanced F-35 Fighter Jet and unarmed Predator drones for surveillance. Israel, because of a de facto alliance against Iran, has presented little objection.
The U.S. seems poised to allow this outflux of killing machinery. It is in both America’s and Israel’s interest to counter the Russian-backed Iran. However, the conflicts also have an undeniably sectarian quality to them, and seem like just another chapter in a series of unproductive shifts in alliances that are not formed with a goal of peace, but utilized to further violence and human rights violations.
There are already ample known cases of American weapons being used irresponsibly, and throughout history their use has been destructive to civilian populations and the resolution of conflict. American weapons have allegedly been used by Saudi Arabia agains civilian populations in Yemen, though Saudi Arabia denies this. There is also plenty of evidence to suggest that American intervention and attempts to assist a perceived lesser-of-two-evils, especially in the Middle East, rarely results in anything but a bigger mess, including more violence and ethnic/religious/nationalistic conflict.
The United States, being a member of the UN Security Council and a self-identified champion of human rights around the world, should not be facilitating more death and destruction, particularly when there is an obvious possibility that these weapons will be used against civilians. Though the Islamic State and Iran present serious threats to freedom, tolerance, and peace, arming their enemies is not the right approach. Our Defense Department should enforce a cap on the number of weapons exported to the region. Sign the petition below to ensure companies are not allowed to profit by arming authoritarian governments with long track records of human rights violations.
Dear Secretary Carter,
The Defense Department seems likely to allow a surge in Foreign Military Sales programs to Arab nations in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia and Egypt, as a means of counterbalancing Iran and ISIS. However, any real examination into the region’s politics shows that the sources of conflict are deep-seeded, complex, and sectarian. As an international proponent of peace, the United States should not be enabling regimes with such poor human rights records.
Though it may presently seems that militarily strengthening a select few nations will preserve the security of Israel and American interests, increasing the number and sophistication of weapons can only escalate violence and undermine stability.
Therefore, I ask that, as Secretary of Defense, you cap the number of weapons exported to all Middle Eastern nations, including our allies. Please prevent corporations from profiting by the enabling of autocrats.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Chris Murphy via American University