Round Up

Recently I watched the evening news as each night it paraded a stream of Libyan teenagers armed with an eclectic collection of weaponry excitedly driving their Peugeots and Kias helter-skelter down dusty roads to confront similarly equipped members of a competing tribe.  They clutched ominous looking automatic weapons, hand grenades, even rocket launchers.  Some were seated in anti-aircraft guns, hosing off rounds of large caliber shells seemingly at random.  I saw one guy driving a tank in circles.  I don’t think he knew how to steer it.  Nobody is in uniform.  Where did these kids get all these weapons?

A recently released Reuter’s news report suggests one reliable supplier would be Russia.  That country’s export agency just said exports of weaponry totaled $8.6 billion in 2010.  While this was a new personal best, they were a little disappointed at having missed their goal of $10 billion.  No wonder I keep seeing kids clutching Kalashnikovs in what we call “trouble spots” all over the world.  Trouble spots, like we’re discussing some kind of universal acne instead of the harsh reality faced by millions every day.

Face it, bullets are good business.  Like cigarettes, use one once and they’re done.  The Russians know this, having accounted for 23% of all arms exported from 2005 to 2008.  That earns them a silver medal.  Germany, with an 11% share, took the bronze.  But our own Yankee ingenuity still carried the day; we ran off with the gold, holding a 30% share.

Back in 1961, in his farewell address, General Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”  As one of those teenagers somewhere today may wonder, “Are we there yet?”