Liam Fox, the UK Government International Trade Secretary, spoke at the DSEI Arms Fair and is quoted in The Independent as saying the following:
“If nations and peoples have an inalienable right to look after their own defence, those of us from advanced economies must remember that if we do not provide countries with means of defending themselves, then we will see a proliferation of uncontrolled and unregulated arms sales free from oversight or inhibitions. To allow such a situation to develop would be vastly irresponsible.”
Let us try to understand what Mr Fox means. First, we read, “If nations and people have an inalienable right to look after their own defence…” It seems to be that Mr Fox adds mentally, “and they do.” Because of that supposition, Mr Fox argues, “those of us from advanced economies must remember” . . . This is rather a strange thing to say. First, it implies that those of us from advanced economies are in danger of forgetting, might have an amnesia in this area, whatever it is. Second, it focusses on “those of us from advanced economies”, which of course might mean you and me, but does not because we have not even thought about forgetting our inalienable rights. Rather, what Mr Fox is doing is suggesting, or presuming, that the business of defence is on a par with the “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” mentioned in the Declaration of American Independence, an inalienable right. He is doing his best to legitimate the selling of arms and is speaking to mega arms dealers from “advanced” countries at an arms fair who are not likely to forget that they need to sell arms to provide countries with the “means of defending themselves”. It is an entirely concocted conceit.
But, Mr Fox is not actually talking about selling arms, which might bring to mind selling arms to dictators, to those who attack other countries, to human rights abusers, indirectly to terrorists and to those who have or might attack us. No. Mr Fox is talking about not selling arms. If we do NOT provide… This is a warning. But what kind of warning is it about not selling arms? What prophetic words are being laid before us if we are not supplying arms to those who would defend themselves?
This is where Mr Fox produces his supposed coup de grace. If we are not selling arms to those who would defend themselves, then “we will see a proliferation of uncontrolled and unregulated arms sales free from oversight or inhibitions.” There is only one response to this sentence, something like “Eh?” or “You what?” or “The logic eludes me.” Why should not selling arms to countries which would defend themselves lead to a proliferation of uncontrolled and unregulated arms sales? Would the US, UK, Japanese, German, French, Russian, Chinese and other Governments suspend all their regulations and allow a proliferation of uncontrolled and unregulated arms sales, when they have suffered from terrorism and opportunist wars? Would these Governments seek to allow North Korea and terrorist groups to buy arms because we are not selling arms to those who would defend themselves. It is flattery to call this an idea, or to seek for a causal relationship which inhabits Mr Fox’s word, “then”. There is no causality, but this is merely a scare dreamed up somewhere in Mr Fox’s head or left elbow. He is greasing the arms trade that he has served so well, but without the semblance of an argument. It is empty of any conceivable sense. It is a thought in absentia.
To “allow such a situation to develop would be vastly irresponsible”, but that is precisely why it is unthinkable and why Mr Fox is talking nothing in a long sentence. In fact, the real question to which Mr Fox might turn his mind is whether the West selling arms to Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Israel, Libya, Argentina, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan and throughout much of Africa and to countless dictators has helped world peace? We could wait decades for an answer. Meanwhile , it is through this kind of rubbishy scare that the trade in arms is justified by our Government. The question is whether the scare works, as other scares by the arms companies and their acolytes have. That is up to you.