Wednesday, September 12, 2012

US Military Exporting More Arms Abroad

This post hopes to continue the discussion from Monday's class about the the hypothetical use of a Chinese nuclear weapon on Okinawa in the possibility of a Taiwanese conflict. Though the post doesn't directly deal with Chinese nuclear arms, it will discuss the focus of Asian-Pacific military strategies in light of US military budget cuts.

In the article, "US Seeks Foreign Arm Sales" (The Diplomat), J. Michael Cole tells the reader how the Pentagon plans to deal with the hundreds of billions of dollars in budget cuts by selling more arms abroad. One of the arms, in particular, is unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs/drones). UAVs and the accompanying software have played a key role in the US's military operations in conflicts zones, as well as the development and use for homeland security. The foreign arms sales provide an unique opportunity for allies of the US, especially in the Asia-Pacific realm where China's military investments pose a threat to allies such as Japan, South Korea, and even the Republic of China (Taiwan).

It is important to note the future sales of military technology does not surrender the ultimate control of the Pentagon to its allies but extends the sphere of military influence and competition to a growing Chinese military. (Also, the software and satellite use for UAVs is still within US military control.) Aside from the control of military technology, Pentagon has already seen the profits:

... According to the Congressional Research Service, U.S. arms sales last year experienced a threefold increase over 2010, reaching U.S. $66.3 billion, the largest single-year total arms sale value in U.S. history, and accounting for over 75 percent of the global arms market. Asia in particular, whose defense spending this year surpassed that of Europe for the first time, will prove an attractive market to U.S. firms. Several countries there are in the process of modernizing their forces, a process that has accelerated recently amid rising tensions with China in several overlapping areas in the East and South China Sea. It is also the one region that so far has managed to weather the global financial downturn, meaning that governments in the region might be somewhat less reluctant to loosen the purse strings to acquire weapons from the U.S.

Overall, the US financially benefits from selling arms to its allies and gain additional military security in a region where China is the growing focus of military and economic power. Though a new arms race is a point of concern for the US Congress, it is unlikely Asia-Pacific countries will pursue such a policy. So, in effect, I believe the US military and its allies have a great opportunity to benefit from the sales of US military technology i.e. drones, and the joint security from this technology in the Asia-Pacific region.

Class, what are your thoughts on the sales of drone technology with US allies? Will this help secure the stability of a region, create an arms race, or destabilize everything (because China bombed Okinawa)?

Thank you for your thoughts and discussion.


1 comment:

Lightman said...

A few points I think. First, while my knee-jerk reaction to the US selling any type of military or sensitive technology is cautious concern--I can't deny that there are several pluses to the prospect of loosening restrictions of selling arms to our allies.

Take for instance, as does the article to which you refer, the complications arising from the Chinese-Japanese spat over the the Diaoyutai/Senkaku Islands and its surrounding waters. It would be, in the tough economic climate, a tremendous boon to the United States if we could avoid getting drawn into fronting the bill for Japanese surveillance when they could--potentially--do that for themselves. Related to this point, if our allies in the region can bolster their own security without "piggy-backing" on the United States, our interests in the region could be more secure.

As to the question you posited at the end of your post, whether or not the sale of these technologies could potentially destabilize the region--admittedly, I'm not sure. Would the region destabilize faster if US allies were limited in their capabilities to acquire drone tech when China does not encounter the same legal complications? Would the asymmetrical balance of technology only exacerbate the situation? I believe it could.