A heartfelt if quixotic critique of America's role as a ranking supplier of weaponry, from the executive director of the...


SPOILS OF WAR: The Human Cost of America's Arms Trade

A heartfelt if quixotic critique of America's role as a ranking supplier of weaponry, from the executive director of the Winston Foundation for World Peace. Drawing on a variety of sources, Tirman (Empty Promise, 1986, etc.) focuses on two client states, Iran and Turkey, and the role of the American-made Sikorsky helicopter, to make his absorbing case against the emergence of the US as a leader in the transnational arms trade. Characterizing the so-called Nixon Doctrine as political cover for America's exit from Vietnam, he charges that it was subsequently employed to justify making Iran and later Turkey regional military powers in aid of stabilizing the oil-rich Middle East. The author goes on to assert that these initiatives failed as Tehran became home base for a theocracy famously hostile to the West and Ankara used state-of-the-art Sikorsky helicopters to oppress Turkey's Kurdish minority. At the same time that he details the horrific uses to which US armaments have been put, Tirman recounts the hard times that followed the end of the Cold War and the consequent decline in defense budgets as well as an increase in coproduction deals with offshore customers. Although the author makes a good job of illustrating the problems that can accrue from Washington's bipartisan efforts to make advanced US weapons key instruments of economic and foreign policy, his briefly stated proposals for preventing them stand in need of a reality check. Arguing that voluntary sales curbs by America would bring other vendor nations (China, France, Germany, et al.) into line, for example, he urges establishing benchmark standards for human rights and social programs in client countries. Similarly, Tirman commends preventive diplomacy, heavy taxes on imported petroleum, and a ban on exports of offensive weapons to states that might abuse them. A spirited and principled assault on the US's latter-day status as a merchant of death, albeit one more notable for pacifist passion than practicality.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0788160516

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1997

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