Medea Benjamin and Charles Davis offer a better way to fight tyranny overseas:
If protecting civilians from evil dictators was the goal...—as opposed to, say, safeguarding natural resources and the investments of major oil companies—there’s an easier, safer way than aerial bombardment for the U.S. and its allies to consider: simply stop arming and propping up evil dictators. After all, Libya’s Muammar Gadhafi’s reaped the benefits from Western nations all too eager to cozy up to and rehabilitate the image of a dictator with oil, with those denouncing him today as a murderous tyrant just a matter of weeks ago selling him the very arms his regime has been using to suppress the rebellion against it.
In 2009 alone, European governments—including Britain and France—sold Libya more than $470 million worth of weapons, including fighter jets, guns, and bombs. And before it started calling for regime change, the Obama administration was working to provide the Libyan dictator another $77 million in weapons, on top of the $17 million it provided in 2009 and the $46 million the Bush administration provided in 2008.
Meanwhile, for dictatorial regimes in Yemen, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia, U.S. support continues to this day. On Saturday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton even gave the U.S. stamp of approval to the brutal crackdown on protesters in Bahrain, saying the country’s authoritarian rulers “obviously” had the “sovereign right” to invite troops from Saudi Arabia to occupy their country and carry out human rights abuses, including attacks on injured protesters as they lay in their hospital beds.
In Yemen, which has received more than $300 million in military aid from the U.S. over the last five years, the Obama administration continues to support corrupt thug and president-for-life Ali Abdullah Saleh, who recently ordered a massacre of more than 50 of his own citizens who dared protest his rule. And this support has allowed the U.S. [to] carry out its own massacres under the auspices of the war on terror, with one American bombing raid last year taking out 41 Yemeni civilians, including 14 women and 21 children, according to Amnesty International.
Rather than engage in cruise missile liberalism, Obama could save lives by immediately ending support for these brutal regimes.
Benjamin and Davis proceed to note that US support for these regimes is largely driven by arms sales. Regarding this point, Nick Turse recently wrote:
Beginning last October, the Pentagon started secretly lobbying financial analysts and large institutional investors, talking up weapons makers and other military contractors it buys from to bolster their long-term financial viability in the face of a possible future drop in Defense Department spending. The Gulf States represent another avenue toward the same goal. It’s often said that the Pentagon is a “monopsony,” the only buyer in town for its many giant contractors, but that isn't entirely true.
The Pentagon is also the sole conduit through which its Arab partners in the Gulf can buy the most advanced weaponry on Earth. By acting as a go-between, the Pentagon can ensure that the weapons manufacturers it relies on will be financially sound well into the future. A $60 billion deal with Saudi Arabia this past fall, for example, ensured that Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, and other mega-defense contractors would remain healthy and profitable even if Pentagon spending goes slack or begins to shrink in the years to come.
So, in other words, the US keeps supporting these evil regimes because these regimes buy arms from US defense contractors.
And why, you might be wondering, would the Pentagon be concerned about keeping the likes of Boeing and Lockheed Martin so rich? One reason, a big reason, is that there is a revolving door between the Pentagon and defense contractors. As William Hartung and Michelle Ciarrocca noted in a 2004 report for the World Policy Institute:
When the Bush administration first took office, it appointed 32 executives, paid consultants, or major shareholders of weapons contractors to top policymaking positions in the Pentagon, the National Security Council, the Department of Energy (involved in nuclear weapons development), and the State Department. Since that time, the “revolving door” has continued to spin, including a high profile scandal in which Air Force procurement official Darleen Druyun pled guilty to criminal charges for negotiating for a position at Boeing while simultaneously negotiating with the company on the terms of a controversial scheme to lease 100 more Boeing 767 airliners for modification and use as aerial refueling tankers. Another controversial move involved Pentagon acquisition chief Edward “Pete” Aldridge’s decision to move straight from Donald Rumsfeld’s Pentagon to a position on the board of Lockheed Martin.
For more on this revolving door, see Richard Cumming’s 2007 article “Lockheed Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.”