Foreign policy insiders in Washington are fond of describing France as a uniquely amoral weapons-trafficking nation that will sell anything to anyone. This harsh judgement seemed to be confirmed last August, when the latest Congressional Research Service report on arms transfers revealed that France had replaced the United States as the leading exporter of arms to the Third World, and in a decisive fashion had grabbed 45 percent of all new arms agreements with developing nations in 1994, nearly twice the level of sales registered by the outgoing titleholder.
The year is 2002. Saddam Hussein has been assassinated, and Shi‘i forces in Basra have declared their independence from Baghdad. Iran, the dominant regional power, invades Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to gain regional hegemony, control the price of oil, finance its military buildup “and ameliorate its social problem.” Tehran threatens to use nuclear weapons if the United States intervenes to defend its Gulf allies.
The camera avoids faces, except those of the plainclothes police. The black-and-white images are hazy, jumpy. They evoke the antiquated style of negatives that have escaped the censor and customs searches. “This could be any country,” says the commentator — Chile under Gen. Pinochet, or Burma under the military. But here the men who gather wear long white robes and checkered headdresses, held in place by an ‘iqal, a black silk tress. The women remain invisible.
There may be more landmines deployed per person in Kurdish Iraq (population around 3.5 million) than in any other region in the world. A 1993 State Department report estimates that the Iraqi army laid 3 to 5 million mines there during the Iran-Iraq war and in the months leading up to the 1991 Gulf war. Others estimate that the number may be as high as 10 million, including mines that Iran also laid. Rough estimates of the ratios for the worst-affected countries are one mine per person in Angola and Afghanistan, and one mine for every two persons in Cambodia.
John Steinbruner is director of foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC. Joe Stork and Yahya Sadowski spoke with him in March 1992.
Could you describe the concept of cooperative security? How is it different from collective security?
They are not mutually exclusive, but they are different. Cooperative security is designed to control the circumstances of military deployment in advance of any actual use. It does so by enforcing rules about the size of forces and by requiring transparency, making it difficult for states to organize an offensive operation.
“The Middle East has entered the nuclear age,” said Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens in October 1991, as he surveyed the region’s strategic environment in the aftermath of the Gulf war and just days before the opening session in Madrid of the Arab-Israeli peace talks.  Arens may merely have been reflecting on a reality that needs to be addressed. Or he may have been staking out a preemptive position in advance of demands for arms controls and territorial concessions, by seeking to make the Israeli nuclear monopoly an explicit component of the regional strategic equation. Between the two interpretations lies the key to the impact of non-conventional weapons proliferation on Middle East stability.
David Omissi, Air Power and Colonial Control: The Royal Air Force, 1919-1939 (Manchester, 1990).
In the recent war with Iraq, US air superiority was crucial in minimizing the US (and other allied) casualties, preparing the ground for a swift advance by land forces. The Middle East, and particularly Iraq, has often been a principal hunting ground for the air forces of Western powers. The recent bombing of Iraq is a species of what David Omissi aptly terms the “frightfulness” with which the colonial powers in the first half of the twentieth century sought to retain their mastery over Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
There is considerable evidence that the Bush administration saw the Persian Gulf war of 1990-1991 as, among other things, the conflict that could define a new politico-military strategy for the 1990s. The war with Iraq would be the emblematic contest for the post-Cold War period, what the Korean War of 1951-1952 had been for the Cold War era.
Even before the current confrontation in the Gulf, Iraq was an extremely militarized country, preoccupied with internal and external “security threats. ” When I traveled to Iraq in early 1990, I was struck by the extent of militarization in parts of the country. The whole of Iraqi Kurdistan was covered by a net of military and paramilitary installations. It was difficult to drive or walk more than a few hundred yards without seeing or being seen by soldiers in an outpost, or in a military installation of considerable size. Traveling south of Basra, I found the Fao peninsula completely honeycombed with military camps. In the Umm Qasr area, security was so tight that I was not even allowed to get out of the car, much less to take pictures.
Sitting comfortably in his living room in Arlington, Virginia, some two years ago, Gen. Edward C. Meyer reflected on the American military and the transformations it has undergone in the last two decades. “This isn’t the American military of World War II, or even Tet,” he said. “This is a totally different military than we’ve ever had before. For one thing, it’s a married military, a family military. It’s a much more complex unit, with much greater demands. We just don’t know how it will do in conflict.”
Once again, world attention is caught by the specter of villainous Arabs, brandishing weapons. In the mid-1970s it was the oil weapon. Today it is chemical weapons. In both cases the weapon is wielded discreetly by the United States itself. In both cases, the main threat is to the people of the Third World.
The roll call of the 146 dead published by the Palestine Human Rights Information Center in Jerusalem, March 20, 1988, is dominated by gunshot victims: shot in the head, shot in the chest, shot in the neck. But among the 49 “deaths from other causes,” 31 were killed by a “non-lethal” riot control weapon euphemistically called tear gas. Physicians for Human Rights, which studied the massive use of tear gas against demonstrators by the South Korean government in 1987, says that tear gases should more properly be called “poisonous gases” and should be “banned from further use against human populations everywhere.”
The Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft that Pakistan wants to get from Washington has played an important part in the US military buildup in the Persian Gulf region. In 1978, the Carter administration sold seven of the planes to the Shah of Iran. One motivation was to reduce the unit cost for the 34 planes ordered by the US Air Force. Iran canceled its order after the revolution, and Washington then pressed NATO to order 18 of them.
France is finding out that being a “Little Satan” can be more uncomfortable than being a big one. Whatever the outcome, the Gulf war threatens to end in political and economic disaster for France, which has become number two demon in the eyes of the ayatollahs by selling Iraq more arms than it can pay for.
The US Navy calls it “violent peace.” One of its foremost academic boosters says it means “to fight without appearing to fight.” They are talking about low-intensity conflict. This is the term the US government uses to describe a strategy of fighting small, relatively cheap wars. Few US troops are involved, so there are few American casualties and there is no need for a draft. The US people may not even be aware of — let alone oppose — US involvement. The goal is to destabilize or overthrow “undesirable” Third World governments or to underpin the stability of “friendly” governments. As Col. John D.
Turkish government officials project spending some $15 billion over the next 12 years to bring Turkey’s military forces up to NATO standards. This would make Turkey’s arms industry one of the major growth sectors over the next decade. Military industries now employ over 40,000 people directly. Once current plans to manufacture equipment ranging from armored vehicles to military aircraft become a reality in the late 1980s, the number of people directly and indirectly employed by this sector will be counted in the hundreds of thousands.  With arms exports of some $400 million in 1985 and plans to build an arms industry geared to exports, Turkey may become the world's 14th largest arms producer in the next decade.