Slaughter Central: The United States as a Mass-Killing Machine

Yves here. Tom Engelhardt tries to get his arms around US weapons sales and use. The figures are depressing, particularly in comparison to those of our nominal peers. And the intensity of our fixation with killing has only grown only over time. Just look at TV. In its early, tamer days, frontier shows like The Rifleman and Gunsmoke gave weapons top billing. Now in our post-Vietnam, post Archie Bunker of greater realism, police shows have gory gunplay as their prime offering, with big side portions of blowing things up and car chases/crashes. We even have a prime time show, The Blacklist, where the lead is assured to shoot at least one person every episode. Better to look at the fictionalized version, where we know no actors were hurt, than clips of the real thing from the Middle East, which are oddly absent from news shows.

By Tom Engelhardt Originally published at TomDispatch

By the time you read this piece, it will already be out of date. The reason’s simple enough. No matter what mayhem I describe, with so much all-American weaponry in this world of ours, there’s no way to keep up. Often, despite the headlines that go with mass killings here, there’s almost no way even to know.

On this planet of ours, America is the emperor of weaponry, even if in ways we normally tend not to put together. There’s really no question about it. The all-American powers-that-be and the arms makers that go with them dream up, produce, and sell weaponry, domestically and internationally, in an unmatched fashion. You’ll undoubtedly be shocked, shocked to learn that the top five arms makers on the planet — Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and General Dynamics — are all located in the United States.

Put another way, we’re a killer nation, a mass-murder machine, slaughter central. And as we’ve known since the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, there could be far worse to come. After all, in the overheated dreams of both those weapons makers and Pentagon planners, slaughter-to-be has long been imagined on a planetary scale, right down to the latest intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) being created by Northrop Grumman at the cost of at least $100 billion. Each of those future arms of ultimate destruction is slated to be “the length of a bowling lane” and the nuclear charge that it carries will be at least 20 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. That missile will someday be capable of traveling 6,000 miles and killing hundreds of thousands of people each. (And the Air Force is planning to order 600 of them.)

By the end of this decade, that new ICBM is slated to join an unequaled American nuclear arsenal of — at this moment — 3,800 warheads. And with that in mind, let’s back up a moment.

Have Gun — Will Travel

Before we head abroad or think more about weaponry fit to destroy the planet (or at least human life on it), let’s just start right here at home. After all, we live in a country whose citizens are armed to their all-too-labile fingertips with more guns of every advanced sort than might once have been imaginable. The figures are stunning. Even before the pandemic hit and gun purchases soared to record levels — about 23 million of them (a 64% increase over 2019 sales) — American civilians were reported to possess almost 400 million firearms. That adds up to about 40% of all such weaponry in the hands of civilians globally, or more than the next 25 countries combined.

And if that doesn’t stagger you, note that the versions of those weapons in public hands are becoming ever more militarized and powerful, ever more AR-15 semi-automatic rifles, not .22s. And keep in mind as well that, over the years, the death toll from those weapons in this country has grown staggeringly large. As New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote recently, “More Americans have died from guns just since 1975, including suicides, murders and accidents (more than 1.5 million), than in all the wars in United States history, dating back to the Revolutionary War (about 1.4 million).”

In my childhood, one of my favorite TV programs was called Have Gun — Will Travel. Its central character was a highly romanticized armed mercenary in the Old West and its theme song — still lodged in my head (where so much else is unlodging these days) — began:

“Have gun will travel is the card of a man.
A knight without armor in a savage land.
His fast gun for hire heeds the calling wind.
A soldier of fortune is the man called Paladin.”

Staggering numbers of Americans are now ever grimmer versions of Paladin. Thanks to a largely unregulated gun industry, they’re armed like no other citizenry on the planet, not even — in a distant second place — the civilians of Yemen, a country torn by endless war. That TV show’s title could now be slapped on our whole culture, whether we’re talking about our modern-day Paladins traveling to a set of Atlanta spas; a chain grocery store in Boulder, Colorado; a real-estate office in Orange, California; a convenience store near Baltimore; or a home in Rock Hill, South Carolina.

Remember how the National Rifle Association has always defended the right of Americans to own weapons at least in part by citing this country’s hunting tradition? Well, these days, startling numbers of Americans, armed to the teeth, have joined that hunting crew. Their game of choice isn’t deer or even wolves and grizzly bears, but that ultimate prey, other human beings — and all too often themselves. (In 2020, not only did a record nearly 20,000 Americans die from gun violence, but another 24,000 used guns to commit suicide.)

As the rate of Covid-19 vaccination began to rise to remarkable levels in this country and ever more public places reopened, the first mass public killings (defined as four or more deaths in a public place) of the pandemic period — in Atlanta and Boulder — hit the news big-time. The thought, however, that the American urge to use weapons in a murderous fashion had in any way lessened or been laid to rest, even briefly, thanks to Covid-19, proved a fantasy of the first order.

At a time when so many public places like schools were closed or their use limited indeed, if you took as your measuring point not mass public killings but mass shootings (defined as four or more people wounded or killed), the pandemic year of 2020 proved to be a record 12 months of armed chaos. In fact, such mass shootings actually surged by 47%. As USA Today recounted, “In 2020, the United States reported 611 mass shooting events that resulted in 513 deaths and 2,543 injuries. In 2019, there were 417 mass shootings with 465 deaths and 1,707 injured.” In addition, in that same year, according to projections based on FBI data, there were 4,000 to 5,000 more gun murders than usual, mainly in inner-city communities of color.

In the first 73 days of Joe Biden’s presidency, there were five mass shootings and more than 10,000 gun-violence deaths. In the Covid-19 era, this has been the model the world’s “most exceptional” nation (as American politicians of both parties used to love to call this country) has set for the rest of the planet. Put another way, so far in 2020 and 2021, there have been two pandemics in America, Covid-19 and guns.

And though the weaponization of our citizenry and the carnage that’s gone with it certainly gets attention — President Biden only recently called it “an international embarrassment” — here’s the strange thing: when reporting on such a binge of killings and the weapons industry that stokes it, few here think to include the deaths and other injuries for which the American military has been responsible via its “forever wars” of this century outside our own borders. Nor do they consider the massive U.S. weapons deliveries and sales to other countries that often enough lead to the same. In other words, a full picture of all-American carnage has — to use an apt phrase — remained missing in action.

Cornering the Arms Market

In fact, internationally, things are hardly less mind-boggling when it comes to this country and weaponry. As with its armed citizenry, when it comes to arming other countries, Washington is without peer. It’s the weapons dealer of choice across much of the world. Yes, the U.S. gun industry that makes all those rifles for this country also sells plenty of them abroad and, in the Trump years, such sales were only made easier to complete (as was the selling of U.S. unmanned aerial drones to “less stable governments”). When it comes to semi-automatic weapons like the AR-15 or even grenades and flamethrowers, this country’s arms makers no longer even need State Department licenses, just far easier-to-get Commerce Department ones, to complete such sales, even to particularly abusive nations. As a result, to take one example, semi-automatic pistol exports abroad rose 148% in 2020.

But what I’m particularly thinking about here are the big-ticket items that those five leading weapons makers of the military-industrial complex eternally produce. On the subject of the sale of jet fighters like the F-16 and F-35, tanks and other armored vehicles, submarines (as well as anti-submarine weaponry), and devastating bombs and missiles, among other things, we leave our “near-peer” competitors as well as our weapons-making allies in the dust. Washington is the largest supplier to 20 of the 40 major arms importers on the planet.

When it comes to delivering the weapons of war, the U.S. leads all its competitors in a historic fashion, especially in the war-torn and devastated Middle East. There, between 2015 and 2019, it gobbled up nearly half of the arms market. Unsurprisingly, Saudi Arabia was its largest customer, which, of course, only further stoked the brutal civil war in Yemen, where U.S. weapons are responsible for the deaths of thousands of civilians. As Pentagon expert William Hartung wrote of those years, U.S. arms deliveries to the region added up to “nearly three times the arms Russia supplied to MENA [the Middle East and North Africa], five times what France contributed, 10 times what the United Kingdom exported, and 16 times China’s contribution.” (And often enough, as in Iraq and Yemen, some of those weapons end up falling into the hands of those the U.S. opposes.)

In fact, in 2020, this country’s arms sales abroad rose a further 2.8% to $178 billion. The U.S. now supplies no fewer than 96 countries with weaponry and controls 37% of the global arms market (with, for example, Lockheed Martin alone taking in $47.2 billion in such sales in 2018, followed by the four other giant U.S. weapons makers and, in sixth place, the British defense firm BAE).

This remains the definition of mayhem-to-come, the international version of that spike in domestic arms sales and the killings that went with it. After all, in these years, deaths due to American arms in countries like Afghanistan and Yemen have grown strikingly. And to take just one more example, arms, ammunition, and equipment sold to or given to the brutal regime of Rodrigo Duterte for the Philippine military and constabulary have typically led to deaths (especially in its “war on drugs”) that no one’s counting up.

And yet, even combined with the dead here at home, all of this weapons-based slaughter hardly adds up to a full record when it comes to the U.S. as a global mass-killing machine.

Far, Far from Home

After all, this country has a historic 800 or so military bases around the world and nearly 200,000 military personnel stationed abroad (about 60,000 in the Middle East alone). It has a drone-assassination program that extends from Afghanistan across the Greater Middle East to Africa, a series of “forever wars” and associated conflicts fought over that same expanse, and a Navy with major aircraft carrier task forces patrolling the high seas. In other words, in this century, it’s been responsible for largely uncounted but remarkable numbers of dead and wounded human beings. Or put another way, it’s been a mass-shooting machine abroad.

Unlike in the United States, however, there’s little way to offer figures on those dead. To take one example, Brown University’s invaluable Costs of War Project has estimated that, from the beginning of the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 to late 2019, 801,000 people, perhaps 40% of them civilians, were killed in Washington’s war on terror in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere. Of course, not all of those by any means were killed by the U.S. military. In fact, some were even American soldiers and contractors. Still, the figures are obviously sizeable. (To take but one very focused example, from December 2001 to December 2013 at TomDispatch, I was counting up civilian wedding parties taken down by U.S. air power in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Yemen. I came up with eight well-documented ones with a death toll of nearly 300, including brides, grooms, musicians, and revelers.)

Similarly, last December, Neta Crawford of the Costs of War Project released a report on the rising number of Afghan civilians who had died from U.S. air strikes in the Trump years. She found that in 2019, for instance, “airstrikes killed 700 civilians — more civilians than in any other year since the beginning of the war.” Overall, the documented civilian dead from American air strikes in the war years is in the many thousands, the wounded higher yet. (And, of course, those figures don’t include the dead from Afghan air strikes with U.S.-supplied aircraft.) And mind you, that’s just civilians mistaken for Taliban or other enemy forces.

Similarly, thousands more civilians were killed by American air strikes across the rest of the Greater Middle East and northern Africa. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which followed U.S. drone strikes for years, estimated that, in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen, by 2019 such attacks had killed “between 8,500 and 12,000 people, including as many as 1,700 civilians — 400 of whom were children.”

And that, of course, is just to begin to count the dead in America’s conflicts of this era. Or thought of another way, in this century, the U.S. military has been a kind of global Paladin. Its motto could obviously be “have gun, will travel” and its forces and those allied to it (and often supplied with American arms) have certainly killed staggering numbers of people in conflicts that have devastated communities across a significant part of the planet, while displacing an estimated 37 million people.

Now, return to those Americans gunned down in this country and think of all of this as a single weaponized, well-woven fabric, a single American gun culture that spans the globe, as well as a three-part killing machine of the first order. Much as mass shootings and public killings can sometimes dominate the news here, a full sense of the damage done by the weaponization of our culture seldom comes into focus. When it does, the United States looks like slaughter central.

Or as that song from Have Gun — Will Travel ended:

Paladin, Paladin,
Where do you roam?
Paladin, Paladin,
Far, far from home.

Far, far from home — and close, close to home — indeed.

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  1. Fireship

    The US is a failed experiment. It was always based in nihilism. What we are seeing is like the rise in human sacrifices of the Mayans as their world was being eclipsed by the Spanish. Ironically, “thoughts and prayers” are offered up at these sacrifices too. Did the Mayans realize it was futile?

    As more and more Americans realize that it is over and that the American dream is bunkum, expect to see more carnage.

    1. LowellHighlander

      I like your thesis here, but I think a more apt comparison is to that of the Roman Empire. My “readings” (mostly documentaries of varying qualities on Youtube; I can’t commit the time to serious study of this) on that empire have led me to believe that Rome fell mostly because the empire had slaughtered and enslaved so many people that, when Rome needed help to protect itself against Alaric and the Goths, the vast majority of humanity in the Western Roman Empire opted to help Alaric. (Also, another huge factor was the arrogance of the Western Empire’s “leaders” as seen, for example, in their refusal to accede to Alaric’s wishes before he sacked Rome in 410 CE.)

      After all the slaughter initiated, facilitated, and ultimately committed by our fearless “leaders” at Langley, Foggy Bottom, and the Oval Office, I think that the vast majority of humanity has now turned against us. I was born during the New Frontier, and I’m told that the U.S. was indeed held in high regard the world over, probably because of WWII, Josef Stalin, and JFK (and other reasons, such as the material standard of living here). I suspect I’ll live long enough (30 more years – Allah willing and the creek don’t rise) to see this country suffer the fate of the Western Roman Empire.

  2. Tom Stone

    That figure of 400 Million guns in the USA is undoubtedly low, The late Kevin RC O’Brien looked at production reports for various manufacturers and came up with the figure of 300 Million sold in the USA this century alone.
    Sales of rifles aren’t broken out by rifle type or model, but the best guess is that there are somewhere between 10-15 Million AR 15 style rifles owned by us Citizens if you take into account home made versions such as those made from 80% recievers or laminated wood.
    The last reporting period was 2019 and a total of a little less than 400 murders were committed by people using rifles of any kind, you ere 4 x as likely to be beaten to death with fists and feet than killed by someone using any kind of rifle.
    Want to reduce violent crime?
    Reduce poverty, inequality and lack of opportunity, when the majority of the populace has a stake in society they act like it, when they don’t you get what we have.

    1. David in Santa Cruz

      Poverty, inequality, and lack of opportunity have more influence on violent behavior than the availability of weaponry. There is a reason that the poor are more likely to be the victims of violence, homicidal or otherwise. It is state-sponsored hopelessness that ever more nakedly tips the scales toward privileged elites.

      Englehardt also points out suicide as if it’s a problem. There are more gun suicides than gun homicides each year in America. Is the problem impulsive games of Russian roulette, or is it a for-profit health system designed to bleed the terminally ill of their assets?

      Lastly, I oppose American imperialism, but only because I abhor state-sponsored militarism in any government. My father was a non-combatant who spent 1943-1945 setting-up frontline field hospitals in the main areas liberated from the Imperial Japanese Army in New Guinea, the Dutch East Indies, and the Philippines. A lifelong pacifist, he nevertheless believed that the state-organized sadism of the IJN (and the savage reaction by young American soldiers) justified ending the war by the limited demonstration of atomic weapons on two Japanese cities.

      As Werner Herzog observed, “I believe that the common character of the universe is not harmony, but hostility, chaos, and murder.” History is replete with state-sponsored sadism, enslavement, and killing. The Kalashnikov is involved in more slaughter than the AR-15. We must end militarism at home, but let’s not kid ourselves about human nature.

    2. JBird4049

      The more dystopian the United States is at home, the more the weapons the gun makers can sell, the more (private) prisons can be built and filled, the more numbers of very violent, heavily militarized police can exist, and the more disposables are created for profitable processing.

      The same is true overseas. So long as these undeclared forever wars exist, the more angry and aggrieved “terrorists” are created, the more the dictators want to buy those weapons, the less democracy exist, the more enraged and profitable their disposables become for processing by the local security state.

      Win-win, as they say, for the both the American and local elites, nomenklatura, and apparatchiks. Disgusting, no, it is vile.

  3. David

    TBH the article is a mess, and reading it is rather like being accosted by a stranger in a bar with a strong personal agenda (“…and another thing.”)
    But (as a non-Murkin) I just wanted to make the point that we’re into American Exceptionalism again, in this case of the negative rather than the positive kind. You get the feeling that the author’s knowledge of the outside world is pretty much limited to what’s on CNN, and that perhaps he doesn’t actually know that the US isn’t the only nuclear power in the world. And so on.

    How do you put an article like this into context?
    Well, for a start, you wouldn’t make comparisons with Yemen unless you had been to Yemen, would you? There are lots of guns in Yemen (virtually the entire adult male population is armed) but these are in addition to the massive holdings of the military. And we’re talking serious stuff here: AK47s are 7.62mm automatic weapons, and there are millions of them. It was not uncommon for males you passed in the street to be carrying these weapons, and once outside the cities (as in Afghanistan) they were everywhere. Shooting incidents were common, the more so since, after midday, a lot of the male population was blasted out of its skull on Khat, which is an amphetamine-like substance derived from chewing a local plant. There were occasional clashes when security forces from different tribes opened fire on each other. Oh, and many tribesmen in the city carry long bladed knives, and fatal stabbings in the street are very common. All that’s in peacetime, of course.

    Second, as in the Yemeni example above, the vast majority of all the deaths in wars since 1989 have been from the use of Soviet, Russian and Chinese weaponry, often dating back to the 1970s. The wars in the DRC from about 1996-2000, involving seven nations and known as “Africa’s World War” killed anything between two and five million people, depending on how you calculate the figures, and were almost exclusively fought with Soviet and Chinese supplied weaponry. During the Cold War, the Soviets and Chinese flooded Africa with millions of AK47s, Makarov automatic pistols, landmines, and 12.7 and 14.5mm heavy machine-guns. As any African specialist will tell you, these were the real weapons of mass destruction, because, unlike the F35, they actually work. Together with Soviet-era tanks and APCs, they were also the principal weapons used in the fighting in Syria and Libya, and in Yemen before (and mostly since) the Saudi-led intervention. Oh, and those photos you’ve seen of the Myanmar military firing on the people? They use mostly weapons supplied by China.

    This is not whataboutism. Two wrongs don’t make a right. But I wish that, just occasionally, writers from the US would take the trouble to do a bit of research about the rest of the world. Perhaps it’s true that there is a link between the sale of F35s to Japan and gun violence among black youths in the inner cities, but that has to be argued, not just assumed. I don’t know how you measure these things, but I seriously doubt that the US is somehow a uniquely psychopathically violent country. The author needs to get out more.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      I assume the authors point is that there is an inherent violence to US culture, and it is exporting it. There may well be some truth in this, but you can well look at plenty of other places in the world where there is a cultural worship of violence (or there was at times past) and it infected other nations. Japan and Germany as obvious examples. But on the optimistic side of things, both those countries at least partially cured their addition to worshiping militarism, although to be fair, the USAF had a major say in that.

      The one thing that is often missing from this sort of analysis, is they way other countries use the US’s (and others) addition to militarism as a means of exerting control. An obvious example is the Middle East, where the vast military expenditures are as much a means of purchasing influence in Washington (and London and Paris and Moscow) as it is a way of building up their respective militaries.

      1. David

        I think that may well be his point, or the point he’s trying to make. I think it’s true, at least to some extent, but it’s hardly a unique case, and there are plenty of other societies in the world where you feel (correctly) much more threatened by violence than I ever have in the US.

    2. Keith Newman

      Mr. Engelhardt is a US writer who understandably focuses on current US issues. He lays out his point at the start: the U.S is ”a mass-murder machine”. He illustrates it by pointing out how the US supplies weapons around the world, promoting, funding, and facilitating violence, and itself slaughters people, directly and through proxies, by the millions. He also outlines the remarkable violence prevalent in the U.S. These facts are undeniable.
      With respect to context, of course the U.S. is not now, nor has it been in the past, the source of ALL evil in the world. However It has been the source of a very large part of it in the past century. From a practical point of view, what would be the point of Mr. Engelhardt focusing on Russian and Chinese actions in, say, the 1980s, when his own country is engaging in ”mass murder” right now? It leads nowhere except to distract from current slaughter that he may be able to help slow down.
      The US as ”a uniquely psychopathically violent country”: the author does not actually say that. Nonetheless the US is certainly a very violent country compared to other developed countries and for that matter past imperialist countries. Collectively Britain, France, Belgium, etc., etc., massacred millions, even tens of millions, of people in their empires but to my knowledge were not especially violent at home. Germany was an exception to this. The fact it slaughtered white people at home is what made its actions unacceptable to the majority of the elites of most European countries.
      The link between US violence abroad and at home: Chris Hedges has written about this. I suggest you read what he has to say.

      1. Alex Cox

        It is absurd to pretend that Russia or China is anything like as great a danger to peace as the United States is. Forty four years ago Martin Luther King observed, ““As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems… But they asked, and rightly so, ‘what about Vietnam?’ They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government.”

        The US was the greatest purveyor of violence in the world then; it is an even greater purveyor of violence today.

        The only criticism I would make of the article is the disparagement of Palladin. Though his business card read, ‘Have Gun, Will Travel’, in almost every episode the protagonist was able to resolve the situation without killing anyone. The episodes are very entertaining, as was his sidekick, Kim Chan (Kam Tong), who went by the extremely un-woke nickname of Hey Boy.

        1. David

          It would indeed be absurd to pretend that Russia or China is as great a threat to world peace as the US, which is why I didn’t say that.

      2. Basil Pesto

        Germany was an exception to this. The fact it slaughtered white people at home is what made its actions unacceptable to the majority of the elites of most European countries.

        come again?

        1. larry

          I wondered about this comment, too, Basil. Germany at the time had great art, great music, great literature, and then it produced a great barbaric Nazi machine. This was more than a bit of a shocker to the elite. Perhaps it is the case that a society with a great culture can also be capable of great barbarism.These are not incompatible. Perhaps it was felt, naively, at the time by many that a society with a great culture could be protected against becoming barbaric.This is a complex and difficult question to answer.

  4. rowlf

    I am always amazed at the hypocrisy of US politicians complaining of violence in the US while ignoring or even approving of violence committed by the US outside the US borders.

    I also support censoring violence in entertainment media.

    1. Starry Gordon

      Censoring anything, including displays of violence, would require state force, which is based on the use of guns and other weapons — another ‘war to end war’, I suppose.

  5. Starry Gordon

    According to the Violence Policy Center (about which I know nothing but will provisionally trust), motor vehicle deaths still outnumber gun deaths, although guns are closing the gap. [1] As I have been hit by private cars far more often than I have been shot at — I ride around on a bicycle as basic transportation, so the ratio is about 10:0 — I’d like to suggest that the proper metaphor for mortal violence in the US is the automobile, rather than the gun. However, urban liberals like to focus on their political rivals, and gun fans tend to be suburban or rural, so guns rather than vehicles are the choice of symbol. Yet again, tribalism permeates every discussion, indeed, it seems, almost every thought.


    1. tegnost

      I’ve been hit twice on a bike but it’s been a few years since I was commuting via bike. Do you think it’s worse now than say 10 years ago? A lot of my friends are buying electric bikes and from the perspective of the car driver it’s not always easy to tell which you are coming up on and I think they way you approach a corner is different when you are pedaling vs just gunning the motor with your thumb so I wonder about my friends safety and try to warn them about the mean streets…

  6. Doc Octagon

    Ban new sales of semi-automatic rifles, classified on the ammunition, not barrel length or grip configuration. Existing semi auto rifles need to be titled to change ownership. This should at least cut down on fatalities at home by limiting wound size. – Gang violence is a self-perpetuating death cult pathology, a fatalistic response to the carceral state and the geographical dead end of precarious city life. No one is 100% rational 100% of the time, some people are never rational. Civilization is a thin veneer on an evolutionary complex set of shared behaviors which allow for the sublimation of aggression but will never eliminate it. This veneer is under enormous surface tension because the deadlier the technology available, the higher the pressure to maintain civilization’s consensus. Paradoxically, civilization also runs on, and is reinforced by, latent human aggression.

    The military arms export sales of the US/ UK/FRA/GER are increasing but this is a sign of declining global conflict. If cultures are comfortable funneling arms to other regions, as opposed to stockpiling weapons themselves, then they feel less threatened and more cooperative with their neighbors. Nations whose arms exports begin to fall is undergoing rearmament in anticipation of an offensive. Members of the UN security council perpetually maintain robust arms industries as a function of defendable population and territory to have the capacity to ramp-up production for a world conflict in the unforeseen future. More likely than not any current war zone is within 125km of a former licensed manufacturer of Warsaw Pact or Chinese small-arms or explosives, ostensibly licensed to spread the (now-defunct) revolution. If a nation imports arms, that nation at least has a vested interest in keeping that weapon system under state control to be used to defend the state itself, as opposed to being gifted on the condition it is used to destroy another state from within.

    One may not agree with this awful logic, and one is welcome to create an alternative security consensus. Or maybe the US is a death cult, the end stage of every culture. Consider motor vehicle fatalities, is death only a subconscious desire of the driver, or is it overt use of technology as intended, individual velocity regardless of how sudden that velocity changes when it meets the intentions of another driver?

    1. Darthbobber

      Except that our arms exports demonstrably rise in tandem with our own increasing armament. As have Russian arms exports recently. Most of the nations you list are perfectly capable of stockpiling whatever they might conceivably need while simultaneously pursuing an aggressive export program.

  7. Starry Gordon

    In the theory of the graph riding a bicycle is better now — it says the incidence of fatalities has declined. I have my doubts about the graph because of my personal experiences, noted just above: getting threatened or hit by a car is a lot more prevalent than getting threatened with or hit by a bullet. As for electric bicycles, they go much faster than ‘manual’ bicycles, are heavier, and attract more aggressive fools, so the case is different. I haven’t seen any stats for them yet. In general, however, motor vehicles could certainly be construed as a dimension of violence.

  8. BMW DOG

    It seems like a lot of folks just don’t understand how much fun it is to shoot cans, targets and maybe just rocks. When two of my girls came back for Thanks Giving break from their Universities in California and we were sitting around the table, one of them said “I am anti gun” and the other one agreed!!! Whoa, I said “get your coats on” and out we went and just shot the heck out of several cans and targets. It was a lot of fun for them and sure reminded me that I should have been teaching them about guns like I did with their brother who is an expert hunter now.

    1. Fireship

      You know what’s even more fun? Archery. I don’t consider shooting animals with a gun to be real hunting. Only traditional bow hunting counts as real hunting in my book. It is also a lot more satisfying to make your own equipment. You may as well go to the supermarket if you hunt with a gun.

  9. Sound of the Suburbs

    We are going to have to halt the production lines.
    The warehouses are full of bombs already, there is no more room.

    Biden to the rescue; he’s started dropping bombs already.
    When you have a large defence industry, you need war.
    The only purpose is to use up the output from the defence industry.

  10. everydayjoe

    I live in India and the US and everything is relative. In the south of India, where I live , life is much progressive than the North( where recently in a village they paraded a young girl who was raped along with the rapist!).
    But during recent Governor elections across many large states, there were reports of cash being distributed for votes, caste line voting etc….The indifference of the state, corruption and incompetence kills many as do guns in US. The court system does not work in India with the average case log of 30 years!
    Everything is relative.

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