A big focus of President Obama’s foreign policy has been to build consensus with other countries in order to tackle international security issues. Unfortunately, a rise in arms sales may result.
Last week, it was reported that U.S. arms sales are on pace to top $40 billion in 2009. That is up from at least $32 billion in 2008 and $25 billion in 2007.
Numerous Obama administration officials have stressed the importance of international coalitions and partnerships in dealing with security challenges. Implicit in these statements is an offer to sell weapons to countries that are considered key U.S. allies.
There are, of course, other factors at work. For example, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, funded mainly by the U.S. in partnership with eight other countries, is expected to result in over 4,000 fighter orders in the coming years. There has also been a more aggressive pursuit of foreign sales by U.S. companies since Secretary Gates’s defense cuts were announced in April.
Arms sales should not become the cornerstone of Obama’s drive to reinvigorate America’s standing in the international community. Particularly in the developing world, arms sales to repressive regimes discredit the United States in the eyes of local populations. How can we say we stand for freedom and liberty while providing undemocratic governments with weapons that allow them to remain in power and crack down on internal dissent?