A Necessary Evil


WE AGREE that in an ideal world, arms sales are evil. But we feel they are a necessary evil, and disagree with the majority's desire to apply absolute standards to the gray world of international politics.

The majority argues that arms sales don't create allies. This statement is as evasive as it is obvious. Arms sales alone are not intended to create allies, but rather to strengthen lies already existing between the U.S. and its allies. All states have legitimate security requirements; to deny politically friendly states arms is merely to weaken their international position, which in turn reduces American influence abroad.

Furthermore, American refusal to sell arms will have no practical effect on prospective clients since they can obtain arms from many other sources. But because many nations see arms sales as the acid test of friendship in international relations, withholding arms will often be seen as an unfriendly gesture, and can consequently create enemies or clients of enemies.

The majority's masterpiece of evasion states that economic aid should replace military sales to a large extent. By implication, it suggests that economic aid is far superior to arms sales in producing stable allies in the long run. This is quite probably true, but the superiority of economic over military aid does not eliminate the rationale for supplying military aid. Both types of aid are valuable tools for the construction of better foreign relations. The extent to which America uses these tools must depend on the circumstances of the given situation and not on the application of inflexible principle.

Jumbled in with the majority's pseudo-pragmatic arguments is its moralistic complaint against selling arms to authoritarian regimes. According to the majority, Reagan happily sells arms to any right-wing government in whatever quantities it desires. Yet the Administration's refusal to sell advanced F-16s to Taiwan hardly supports this interpretation.


In the case of Pakistan, the Zia regime is clearly less than democratic. Nevertheless, Zia is sandwiched between nations that pose significant military threats: hostile India, unstable Iran, and the Soviet Union. And should Pakistan collapse through military weakness, given the record of extremism in that region, it is hard to imagine a government that would be either more pro-western or more democratic than Zia's government.

The majority makes its one concession to common sense by arguing that America should preserve the option to sell arms abroad to nations such as Israel. But what makes Israel so different from other friendly Third World nations Israel is indeed an ally. And it was American arm, sales that enabled Israel to prevail in the 1967 and 1973 wars. American arms will enable nations friendly to us to withstand equally grave military pressures.

Furthermore, Israel has violated international sovereignty just as surely as other friendly nations have sometimes violated human rights, for example, by bombing Iraq's experimental nuclear reactor last summer. Should America stop arms sales to Israel because of isolated abuses of American weapons, incomplete disregard of Israel's pressing security needs?

The majority's opinion should be seen for what it is, the work of naive idealists. It is characteristic of them to take cheap shots at the so-called "death trade" without pausing to examine fully the implications of their statements, or to realize that a lack of this trade can be equally deadly.