USA Arms Exports Term Paper

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U.S. Arms Exports

The impact of United States arms exports on human rights around the world

In 1948, just shortly after the end of WWII, the UN adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The purpose of this document was to make certain that every human being had certain rights that could not be violated. It was to make certain that the atrocities of the war would be in the past, never to happen again. The United States has assumed the role of policing other nations for human rights violations. Reverence for human dignity has stood at the forefront of American culture.

However, if one looks at America's past and present policies, it would appear that there is more than meets the eye. While America maintains a stance of protecting human rights on all fronts, it supports policies that are contradictory. For instance, the U.S. supplies arms to other governments in the world that are known to have excessive human rights violations. This practice is controversial and undermines the basic precepts that are bring promoted by the government. This research will support the thesis that the U.S. government's history of providing arms to governments with known human rights violations undermines its claims of support for human rights.

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TOPIC: Term Paper on USA Arms Exports Assignment

One of the most difficult aspects of developing a consistent position on the stance of the U.S. As far as human rights are concerned is that much of the information on the subject is biased. Strongly opinionated articles tend to ignore facts that do not support the position of the author. They may emphasize points that are insignificant or give undo attention to factors that do not merit it. There are also concerns about any data that can be obtained regarding arms sales to other countries as much of that information is not available to the public. There is no way of knowing if the numbers presented in reports are biased, or if they are a true reflection of U.S. involvement with unsavory regimes around the globe.

One does not have to search far into the history of the U.S. To discover that human rights questions abound. The U.S. once permitted African-Americans to be enslaved simply for their ethnic background. Women were only given the right to vote in the previous century. There are distinctive gaps in society where some are more likely to be disadvantaged based on race or ethnic background. Let us not forget the U.S. treatment of indigenous Americans and their removal to reservations. The history of the United States is not spotless as far as human rights are concerned. There are many that feel the U.S. has moved away from these atrocities and that a new era has emerged. However, there are still some that claim the U.S. supports regimes that continue to oppress the common person, or those of a certain ethnic background.

The U.S. Department of State publishes a yearly report "Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: The U.S. Record" in order to encourage respect for human rights. The publication is in compliance with a 2002 law that requires the department to track its activities. This report also summarizes the human rights status of other nations. This report supposedly represents an unbiased opinion of the human rights status of the U.S. And other countries. However, there is no mention of the darker side of U.S. human rights violations, which makes the unbiased status of the report debatable.

Case Studies

One of the most famous instances of U.S. human rights violations occurred in the 1980s under the Reagan administration. During this time, the Nicaraguan Sandinistas were considered to be a communist regime. In this scandal, the U.S. helped to sell arms illegally to Iran to finance the Contras guerillas. The Contras were a ruthless group who instituted serious human rights violations against in their war against the Nicaraguan government. Nicaragua took the United States to court in the International Court of Justice. It was found that the United States had violated international law by supporting guerillas, which was a violation of the law against not intervening in the affairs of another state. Several specific actions led to the decision by the International Court of Justice. The first was that U.S. personnel help place mines in Nicaragua's harbors. They were also found to be guilty of sabotage. The U.S. also distributed a book on how to engage in psychological warfare. The Nicaraguan affair was the most blatant case of human rights violations. Although the U.S. still denies that, its actions were in error according to International law. The International Court of Justice disagrees and holds the U.S. accountable on human rights violations.

The most recent case in which the U.S. has been accused of human rights violations is the War on Terrorism. When the security council failed to find the supposed weapons of mass destruction that Saddam Hussein was accused of possessing, the International community deemed the actions in Iraq a police action. When Saddam Hussein's regime was overturned, the Iraqis were plunged into a fierce civil war. This was another case where the U.S. was accused of unnecessarily messing in the affairs of another country. The actions of the U.S. have been severely criticized by the UN Security Council.

Arms Supplies to Oppressive Regimes

According to a 2005 report from the Arms Trade Resource Center, the U.S. has accelerated arms sales to oppressive regimes. Support in terms of military grants has increased since 2001. Those that back the U.S. action are paid in arms. U.S. arms have been involved in a number of conflicts such as Angola, Chad, Ethiopia, Colombia, Pakistan, Israel and the Philippines. The countries that were helped are considered "undemocratic" according to the U.S. state department.

The following illustrates sales of weapons in terms of total dollar amounts.


Total Weapons Sales in U.S. Dollars

Saudi Arabia

1.1 billion in 2003


1.0 billion


153 million

United Arab Emirates

110 million


33 million

Data Source: Deen, p. 1).

These regimes have been deemed repressive, yet the U.S. continues to support these regimes by providing them with the tools to carry out their actions at the expense of their citizens. The U.S. has an official program that is responsible for financing the military operations, if the U.S. considers the cause to be necessary and just to protect democracy in the world. Funds dispersed from this program increased by 68% from 2001 to 2003, represents a 2.5 billion rise from 3.5 billion to 6 billion dollars. The recipient of these funds receives these grants on the condition that they are used to only purchase U.S. weapons systems. This program was supposed to boost the multi-billion dollar industry that fuels the wars. The most adamant criticism of this program is that regardless of the economic implications, this funding program helps to supply some of the most oppressive regimes. The plight of the citizens of the country are not taken into consideration when distributing these grants.

The biggest FMF increases went to countries that joined the U.S. As allies in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. These increases in funding included a $525 million dollar increase to Jordan, a $191 million dollar increase to Afghanistan, and a $224 million dollar increase to Pakistan. Bahrain received a $90 million dollar increase from 2001 to 2003. Increases were a result of the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Towers.

One of the key criticisms of the program is that there is little control over where and how the weapons are used once they reach their destination. Some of these arms might fall into enemy hands, but the lack of monitoring makes this difficult to track. U.S. law prohibits weapons transfers to countries that violate the rights of their citizens. However, the ability to track and enforce this policy is virtually non-existent.

The U.S. has the most stringent policies regarding export control on the books. In the eyes of the world, the U.S. has policies to track exports that are beyond what other countries have on their books. However, it is the commitment to these policies and inadequate methods of enforcement that are of greatest concern. For instance, in 2006, there were several questionable arms transfers to Iraq. It was later found that there was little done to track where these weapons would end up once they arrived in Iraq.

The Case of Bahrain

Arms transfers to Bahrain represent a key example of the type of arms transfer that the statistics represent. The U.S. government has classified Bahrain as a "hereditary emirate with few democratic institutions and no political parties,." It also warns that Bahraini "security forces committed serious human rights abuses.." Supplying arms to a country that is classified as such would seem to be a violation of U.S. laws regarding arms funding. Bahrain engages in mistreatment of it Shia population, including open warfare against them. From 1995 to 1997, 95% of the arms available in Bahrain were from the United States.

The citizens of Bahrain have… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "USA Arms Exports" Term Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

USA Arms Exports.  (2007, December 7).  Retrieved September 28, 2021, from

MLA Format

"USA Arms Exports."  7 December 2007.  Web.  28 September 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"USA Arms Exports."  December 7, 2007.  Accessed September 28, 2021.