Are the children to receive the arms race from us as a necessary inheritance? - Pope John Paul II, 1979 U.N. Speech
Contrary to popular belief, there are some things of which you can never get enough and helping to satisfy that seemingly insatiable need is something someone like George Bush can do when traveling to foreign countries hoping to make a good impression. As his mother taught him, there is no better way to make a good impression than to bring a "bread and butter" gift to your host. Of course what to bring can be a bit of a problem since it is not always easy to know what the host might like, especially if he or she is one of those people who seems to have everything, like Saudi King Abdullah.
During Mr. Bush's recent trip to the Middle East he probably took presents to each person he visited but the one that made the biggest splash was the present he had for King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia. Actually, it was not a present so much as an opportunity and for the man who has everything, an opportunity can be more welcome than a present. When Mr. Bush arrived in King Abdullah's kingdom he gave the king the great news that Mr. Bush's kingdom was prepared to sell King Abdullah's kingdom $20 billion worth of weapons. Included among the weapons were 900 precision-guided bombs that could be used to attack countries that are within their range like Israel, although for obvious reasons, Mr. Bush would be distressed if that is what they were used for. He'd like for them to be placed on the country's Eastern border where they could be used against Iran, a prospect Mr. Bush finds maniacally irresistible.
The king was thrilled to receive the present since it helps Saudi Arabia maintain its lead in the world as an arms importer. According to a Congressional Research Service report issued in September 2006, Saudi Arabia imported $22.5 billion of arms from the United States from 1997 through 2004. Looking at it from a different perspective, a September 2007 Arms Control Association report says that that country's overall all imports of arms since 1998 came to $50 billion making it the largest arms importer in the developing world. Anything Mr. Bush can do for the Saudis that helps them keep that privileged position is greatly appreciated by them more especially when it also adds to the enormous pleasure they get from the pride of ownership. Although Mr. Bush's present was a really good opportunity to set before a king, it was not unexpected since it had been talked about since the summer. It was also not Mr. Bush's only arms deal in that part of the world, another having preceded his visit by a few months.
In August 2007 the administration signed a deal with Israel in which it agreed to let Israel acquire $30 billion in arms aid over the next 10 years. At the time that deal was announced it was described by R. Nicholas Burns, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs as being "an investment in peace, in long-term peace . . . ." Everyone knows that the more heavily armed countries there are in the world, the less likely there is to be a war. It's the same principle, on a much larger scale, of course, as the principle that the more heavily armed U.S. citizens are, the more the crime rate will decrease since criminals will fear to ply their trade lest they get shot by well-armed peace loving citizens.
Of course, making the world safe through arms' sales gives the United States a great opportunity to maintain its lead as the biggest arms supplier in the world. The transactions with Israel and Saudi Arabia almost guarantee that the United States can maintain its lead in arms sales. According to a report from Reuters, at the Reuters Aerospace and Defense Summit in Washington at the end of 2006, Air Force Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Kohler, director of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said he projected sales for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2007 of roughly $20 billion. That, according to the report, was double the amount sold in the preceding fiscal year. According to the Congressional Research Services Report entitled "Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nation, 1999-2006" issued in September 2007, during the 2003-2006 period the United States bested Russia in three out of four years in the value of arms transfer agreements. With the most recent agreements George Bush will sleep well secure in the knowledge that in his last year in office he outstripped his good friend, Vladimir Putin, in their friendly competition to see who can sell the world the most arms. The rest of us should sleep so well.