The arms trade is a business with a privileged place in the hearts of governments. In practice, this means arms companies are incredibly adept at taking taxpayers’ money and convincing governments that the arms trade should be promoted rather than restrained.
While the benefits of the arms trade accrue to international companies, the costs are to the people on the receiving end of the weaponry, the citizens and taxpayers of both buying and selling countries, non-military industry, and national and international security.
The power of the arms lobby (including many in government) has so far persuaded the media and much of the public that the promotion of arms exports is, if not actually good, necessary. If the arms trade is to end, changing this perception is the first step.
There is increasing understanding that arms do not lead to security, but there also needs to be widespread recognition that:
- arms spending reflects vested interests rather than security requirements;
- the argument that the arms industry is economically important is a myth - it is paid for by the taxpayer and is an economic drain;
- the money and skills wasted on arms would provide greater security and economic benefits if they were invested in addressing real security challenges such as climate change.
As we take action to end the arms trade, it is vital to counter the arms trade's myths as well as to highlight the pain and destruction it causes.