Globalization and Weapons Trade

Small Arms TradeCorn, oil, diamonds, skyscrapers, and fiat currencies were just a few ideas that arose as I mulled through different items to reflect upon for their influence in globalization. However, I must focus my attention on an issue that not only affects many other humans globally, but also encompasses how we value other physical objects.The abundance of arms trafficking between developed nations and third world countries have a very prominent effect on international relations.

Using Jagdish Bhagwati’s definition of globalization — as being “the process by which regional economies, societies, and cultures have become integrated through a global network of political ideas through communication, transportation, and trade” (Bhagwati, p. 16) – one may arrive at the conclusion that all aspects of globalization may benefit the world. I have been able to identify numerous examples of how this has not been the case. In fact, this trend has been detrimental to much of the third world.

Oil, diamonds, currencies, and other traded items have been affected by arms trafficking in various ways. As we move further into a globalized society; there are many instances of weapons pouring away from developed nations into the conflicts that haunt developing countries. Some of the markets of western nations are either threatened or disadvantaged when a third world country is unable to enforce their own laws. (Lumpe, p. 5) Many civilians turn to firearms from the black market in light of the economic situation that envelops poverty and corruption. In turn, they have spawned many non-governmental and international organizations that strive to curtail this trend. In order to do so, one must understand the source of arms trafficking.

From a historical perspective, the events leading up to the end of World War II and the conflict between the U.S.S.R. and the United States during the Cold War play a major role in the issue of arms trafficking around the world today. The Military Industrial Complex has derived from the political tension, proxy battles, and the competition of ideologies during the Cold War (Lowman, p. 615).

Some developed nations rely on the industrial sector and businesses to complement the cause for their defense spending and arms buildup (Lowman, p 628). The problem arises when a nation invests a large part of their gross domestic product in defense spending. Major world wars have been nonexistent as nations and states move towards a more globalized status. Instead, minor military resistances have emerged in many of the developing countries worldwide (Lowman, p. 630). This in turn has caused the industrial sector to seek new intuitive routes for income (Lumpe, p. 6)

The United States is just one of the developed nations with a long history involving weapons and firearms. In the United States, domestic small arms manufacturing has grown to a $2 billion a year industry. These manufacturers produce roughly three handguns every minute (Stone, 25:34); which gives light to a trend that there must be a strong demand for armament.

Since the inception of the constitution and the accompanying bill of rights Americans are guaranteed the right to bear arms and form a militia for the security of a free state (Stone, 48:21). This has spawned a plethora of legal battles that have challenged the constitutional right and its interpretation as for seen by the founding fathers. On grounds of morality for allowing Americans that constitutional right, one may not realize the effects that this may have on victims of gun related crimes.

Within U.S. borders, many progressive politicians are seeking greater restrictions on the sale and distribution of firearms (Thompson, para. 4). While conservatives and the National Rifle Association, a non-profit organization, advocate for less restrictions on the right to own, maintain, and distribute firearms (Stone, 4:36). This is often supplemented with the concept that the second amendment is in place to prevent their civil liberties from being threatened by the government (Stone, 5:15).

America is a nation that finds pride and a certain amount of patriotic nationalism in having the legal right to bear arms. However, one can easily observe through an assortment of media outlets that firearms are quite often directly related to crimes throughout the nation. “There were 52,477 deliberate and 23,237 accidental non-fatal gunshot injuries in the United States during 2000” (WISQARS, sec 2) and “in 2006, firearms were used in 68 percent of murders, 42 percent of robbery offenses, and 22 percent of aggravated assaults nationwide” (Fox, p. 13) which inevitably leaves a person wondering what the crime rates are in a nation that has insufficient resources for law enforcement.

The globalized aspect of firearms and the accompanying crimes produce some very staggering figures. Nearly half a million people around the world are killed every year; while there are over half a billion firearms in use globally (Makyn, para.1). According to Amnesty International:

U.S. companies produce half the world’s annual total of 8 million firearms. And as part of its “war on terror,” the U.S. government has stepped up military aid, including shipments of guns, to many governments — including Georgia, Israel, Nepal, the Philippines, Uzbekistan and Yemen — that the State Department acknowledges engage in torture or assassination (Lempe, p. 4).

These small arms have been utilized on many of the opposing sides in various global conflicts in third world countries despite being manufactured by developed nations. (Stone, 19:12) And this has been very disastrous for the Caribbean, Latin America, Africa, Middle East, and South Asia. The post-World War era has seen arms, illicit and licit flow through from western nations to the hands of both sides in conflicted third world countries (Lumpe, p, 4).

Arms Trade

Global Arms Trade

In fact, governments in Trinidad and Tobago as well as Jamaica have linked illegal drugs and corrupt political scenes to arms trafficking; recognizing Venezuela, Mexico, Honduras, Haiti and Columbia as countries from which firearms have found their way into local markets (Makyn, para. 5). Arms trafficking even directly impacts the United States when focusing on a country that is adjacent to its own border. Similar to the U.S. constitution, Mexico allows it inhabitants to possess firearms for their liberty and defense (Friedman, sec. 2).

Unfortunately, Mexico has fallen victim to a myriad of gun related violence despite stringent regulations and strict gun-control laws. Routes of gun trade usually stem from legally purchased arms in the United States and then flow towards third world nations in order to supplement the drug trade or other societal conflicts (Friedman, sec. 2). These routes are due to the United States allowing the states to determine their level of regulation in gun control. Some states have very liberalized firearm markets and are unable to properly track the distribution of arms. A plethora of cartels are able to obtain and traffic firearms and distribute them out of U.S. borders. As reported by BBC:

American guns sold locally and sometimes legally in gun shops or at gun shows in places such as Tampa, Miami, Houston, or San Diego can find their way illicitly into the hands of drug cartels in Mexico and gangs in Jamaica. Most commonly, the smugglers use a “straw purchaser” — a local citizen with no criminal record or documented mental instability — to buy multiple guns for a trafficker who then moves them across borders on foot or in hidden compartments of trucks or cars. (Lumpe, p. 5)

But who could you hold responsible for this negative consequence of globalization? The Caribbean Community Council of Ministers or CARICOM states that gun-related violence bears heavily on their domestic markets by “undermining growth, threatening human welfare, and impeding social development” (Makyn, para. 7).

The United Nations has attempted to influence Caribbean nations to enforce strict gun policies to curtail the violence. They reported that Latin America and the Caribbean account for over 42 percent of all violent crimes globally translating to the highest rate of armed violence in the world (Makyn, para. 13). Certain non-governmental organizations, such as Amnesty International, have made many efforts in raising the awareness among governments to improve the regulation of their markets. Despite coming together in UN and G8 summits; China, Russia, and the United States have viewed tighter regulations as move that would obstruct their commercial and foreign policy options (Lumpe, p. 6). This indication only reduces the chance of any comprehensive solution to the issue of arms trafficking.

Globalization is not without its negative effects on the world. This trend will continue to disadvantage developing nations without any single entity taking responsibility. Unfortunately, there is a profit motive along many lines. Legally purchased and manufactured weapons trade hands in one nation and move towards the black market in order to supplement the societal conflict in another nation.

Oil, diamonds, and many major currencies are some of the physical properties that are affected by arms trafficking. Whether owning firearms as a personal hobby, democratic right, or for personal safety, or suffering as a victim of sectarian violence in corrupt state; this type of physical property has made a detrimental impact on the world. Unfortunately, the increased rate of violence from firearms simply complements the rise of a globalized world.

  • Bhagwati, Jagdish (2004). In Defense of Globalization. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.
  • “WISQARS Nonfatal Injury Reports”. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Retrieved 2006-11-10.
  • United States. National Institute of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. Homicide Trends in the United States. By J. A. Fox. Washington, D.C.: FBI Report, 2007. Print.
  • Sachs, Wolfgang. “A Guide to Knowledge and Power.” The Development Dictionary: A Guide to Knowledge and Power. EcoJustice Dictionary, 1982. Web. 5 Apr. 2011. <http://www.ecojusticeeducation.org/index.php>.
  • Makyn, Ricardo, ed. “Illicit Gun Trade a Worrying Trend in Caribbean.” The Gleaner [Kingston] 7 Feb. 2009: 3c-4c. Print.
  • Friedman, George. “Mexico: Dynamics of the Gun Trade.” Geopolitical Intelligence, Economic, Political, and Military Strategic Forecasting | STRATFOR. 24 Oct. 2007. Web. 17 Mar. 2011. <http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/mexico_dynamics_gun_trade>.
  • Lumpe, Lora. “In Arms Way.” Editorial. Amnesty International [Washington, D.C.] Summer 2008, Amnesty Magazine ed., Editorial sec.: 4-6. Print.
  • Stone, Evan B., prod. “Vanguard: Fully Automatic America.” Vanguard. Current TV. CTV, Los Angeles, California, Fall 2008. Television.
  • Thompson, Barnard R. “An Inside Look at Mexican Guns and Arms Trafficking.” An Inside Look at Mexican Guns and Arms Trafficking. 31 May 2010. Web. 17 Mar. 2011. <http://mexidata.info/id2684.html>.
  • Lowman, Michael R., George T. Thompson, and Laurel Hicks. “27-31.” United States History: Heritage of Freedom. 2nd ed. Pensacola, Fla. (Box 18000, Pensacola 32523): Beka Book Publications, 1996. 550-705. Print.

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