Oh dear, more bad news! Page 10 of the Sunday, October 29, 2006 New York Times: “Russia Was Leader in Arms Sale To Developing World In ’05.” Yes, Russia sold more weapons than the USA to developing nations in 2005 – a total of $30.2 billion up from $26.4 billion in 2004, “A market that the U.S. has regularly dominated.”
Furthermore, according to a new Congressional study, the USA also ranked third behind Russia ($7 billion) and France ($6.3 billion) at $6.2 billion in arms transfers to the developing world. Now if that isn’t just enough to wee off a Good Humor man – losing our edge as the top dog in dealing in instruments of death to the world. But wait, there is some good news: when you add arms transfer agreement deals to both developed and developing nations combined, the USA is still (thank goodness) number one! Certainly makes a citizen proud, “don’t it?”
Surely, we have proved that the proliferation of weapons here at home makes us all safe (except for the 16,000 citizens killed each year with guns) and surely what nations with vast numbers of starving men, women and children need are weapons for their autocratic and dictatorial leaders’ armies to use to wage war on other hapless nations or factions in their own countries.
Well, enough of the sarcasm. I wonder how many citizens read such articles as the one referenced above and became sick to their stomachs as I do. The nations of the world spend billions of dollars – $44.2 billion in 2005 – in arms deals worldwide. The United Nations tells us that between 20,000 and 30,000 children die each day of malnutrition, starvation, diarrhea; meanwhile, the industrial nations of the world sell arms to poor countries – let them eat bullets. While we desperately need worldwide distribution of various vaccines to protect innocent and doomed children, nations – such as the USA – place a higher value on using their economic might to profit from the sales of arms. While the world critically needs research to deal with global warming, environmental degradation, energy conservation and the like, we allot a fraction of what we might allot compared to arms sales. It would be laughable if it weren’t so tragic. What we lament during worship across the country – poverty, war, greed, cruelty – we ignore most of the time.
When, I wonder, will leaders ever emerge in this country who are able to lead us to be our best selves? Americans can be generous beyond belief; we can be compassionate and caring. But, somehow, we have come to believe that these qualities can only exist at the personal level or in private not-for-profit ventures. The public-political arena, it is assumed, is the arena of realpolitik – of tough, self-interested, self-aggrandizement. Spiritual values have no place in this area. But what if?
What if the USA reshaped its foreign policy to be guided by compassion, the alleviation of poverty, hunger, disease? What if the USA set a goal of building schools, hospitals, research centers all over the world? What if we truly beat our swords into ploughshares and led a crusade to clean up the planet, inaugurate conservation efforts, preserve species and natural resources? What if?
Would such efforts not restore us to a place of respect in the world? As it is, we are perceived as arrogant bullies, selfish and profligate, materialistic and valueless. Being number one in the world in the manufacture and sales of weapons of destruction is hardly anything to brag about. But what if?