President Donald Trump shows a chart highlighting arms sales to Saudi Arabia during a meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office of the White House, Tuesday, March 20, 2018,

President Donald Trump shows a chart highlighting arms sales to Saudi Arabia during a meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office of the White House, Tuesday, March 20, 2018, AP / Evan Vucci

Arms Sales Decisions Shouldn’t Be About Jobs

Basic foreign policy principles should drive potential weapons exports, not pork-barrel politics.

Last week, even as the Senate was debating whether to end U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s brutal war in Yemen, Donald Trump was meeting in the White House with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, engaging in one of his favorite activities – bragging about the U.S. jobs generated by foreign arms deals.

As he sang the praises of tens of billions of Saudi purchases of U.S. weaponry, Trump brandished a map of the United States with the legend “KSA Arms Deals Pending” above a red oval that said “40,000 U.S. jobs.” Outside the boundaries of the map were four examples of U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia: C-130 Hercules transport planes, P-8 Poseidon anti-submarine warfare planes, Bradley Fighting Vehicles, and Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile systems. Lest one think they were the result of Trump’s superior dealmaking, three of the four deals cited on his chart were made during the Obama administration, as long ago as 2012.

To drive home the real point of the exercise, Trump’s handy little map marked in red the U.S. states most likely to benefit from the arms deals with Saudi Arabia. Not surprisingly, they included Midwestern states that gave Trump his margin of victory in the 2016 election; Florida, a key swing state; and the large, electoral-vote-rich states of Texas and California.

If Trump’s presentation at the White House sparks a debate about the role of jobs considerations in U.S arms sales policy, it may actually do some good. The bottom line is that creating U.S. jobs should play no role in deciding which countries to lavish with U.S. weaponry, for several reasons.

Potential arms deals should be driven by basic foreign policy questions, not pork-barrel politics. Security and human rights should be the main criteria used by the executive branch and the Congress in deciding which nations should be eligible to receive U.S. weapons, which Trump has described as “the finest military equipment anywhere in the world.”

Respecting human rights has value in its own right, but it is also good security policy. Nations that systematically abuse human rights are not only less stable, but their repressive activities too often generate internal conflict, and can even create an environment in which terrorist groups are more likely to thrive.

The Yemen war is a case in point. Not only has Saudi Arabia used weapons supplied by the United States and the United Kingdom to carry out an indiscriminate bombing campaign, but it has destroyed vital civilian infrastructure and imposed a blockade on the import of basic supplies. The result has been a humanitarian catastrophe of the highest order, including the largest cholera outbreak in history, the internal displacement of millions of people, and situation where 8 million Yemenis are at risk of famine.

In addition to being a moral outrage, the Saudi-led war in Yemen has serious security consequences. As Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., has noted, the majority of Yemenis know where Saudi Arabia gets its weapons, and view the United States as being responsible for the devastation in their country. As Murphy further indicated, over time uncritical U.S. support for the Saudi war effort could create fertile ground for anti-U.S. terrorism. And even if it doesn’t, the war between the Saudi-led coalition and Houthi rebels has opened up space for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to expand its role in Yemen.

A secondary reason not to use the “jobs card” as a reason to sell U.S. weapons abroad is that the claims of jobs linked to foreign arms sales are greatly exaggerated. As a study from the University of Massachusetts has documented, weapons spending is virtually the least effective way to create jobs. Almost any other U.S. export could create more domestic employment.

In addition, most major U.S. sales now involve offsets or licensed production – processes in which recipients of U.S. arms and technology produce all or part of U.S.-supplied weapons in their own countries.

The above-mentioned arrangements diminish the U.S. job benefits of major foreign arms deals. And as research by my colleagues at the Security Assistance Monitor has revealed, licenses to produce U.S. weapons overseas have been a regular practice during Donald Trump’s time in office. One of the more embarrassing examples of this phenomenon was when President Trump bragged about the jobs impact of F-35 sales during last year’s trip to Japan, apparently unaware that F-35s sold to Japan and other regional players would be produced at a U.S.-licensed facility in Japan.

Downplaying human rights and security in favor of narrowly focused economic concerns poses high risks while offering fewer benefits than advertised. Perhaps someone needs to supply President Trump with a map of the world highlighting U.S. sales that enable human rights abuses and sustain conflicts, and then explain to him why these results are too high a price to pay for the chance to boast about the limited jobs benefits these deals supply to the United States.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.