Op-Ed: Poll shows most Americans agree arms sales make US less safe

Posted Sep 10, 2019 by Ken Hanly
Although most Americans want the US to maintain strong overseas alliances they do not want the government to use arms sales as a means to do so. Both the Obama and Trump administrations have used these sales as a tactic to cement alliances.
US President Donald Trump said he did not want any US sanctions against Saudi Arabia to involve mult...
US President Donald Trump said he did not want any US sanctions against Saudi Arabia to involve multi-billion-dollar arms sales to the kingdom
Nicholas Kamm, AFP
Trump administration working to sell more arms
As long ago as March last year Reuters reported: " President Donald Trump will soon make it easier to export some types of lethal U.S.-made drones to potentially dozens more allies and partners, according to people familiar with the plan. "
The Trump administration also bypassed the US Congress to sell arms to Saudi Arabia. Al Jazeera reported on May 24: " US President Donald Trump, declaring a national emergency because of tensions with Iran, swept aside objections from Congress on Friday to complete the sale of over $8bn worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Jordan."
Survey shows most Americans think arms sales make US less safe
Ivo Daalder president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs that carried out the survey said: “Americans don’t like selling weapons to other countries." Seventy percent of those polled believed that selling arms to other countries made the US less safe while only 9 percent thought it made the US safer.
Daalder said in Washington yesterday: “There’s just a very strong negative bipartisan view that selling weapons is — it doesn’t make Americans safer, it’s not a good thing to do.That said, if you would — I’m sure that if we change the way the questions get phrased, which is “Do you believe the United States should provide, sell military equipment to our allies so we can fight better together?” I’m pretty sure that we’ll get very high numbers saying yeah, it makes sense for our allies who are flying F-18s when we’re flying F-18s. But as an issue, the president in particular has raised weapons sales as sort of the be all and end all of our relationship with Saudi Arabia. The American people aren’t buying that one.”
BIll Hartung director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy also commented on the issue: “Americans have long been skeptical of the purposes and impact of foreign arms sales, but for many years the issue did not rise to the level of public discussion or debate...This may be changing, now that Congress has taken consistent action aimed at ending sales of U.S. weapons to Saudi Arabia for use in its brutal war in Yemen. The lack of public support for arms sales suggests that Congress can and should go further in restricting U.S. sales that may be used to harm civilians or escalate conflicts, in Saudi Arabia and beyond.”
The survey of 2,059 adults was conducted from June 7 to 20.
US exports a huge number of arms
In fiscal year 2018 the US exports of arms were worth $180 billion according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO)
The GAO found that arms transfer policies of both the Trump and Obama administration were broadly similar in content.
Trump has touted arms exports as a great job creator. The exports also generate profits for US arms manufacturers. The Pentagon regularly tells the US Congress that the sales promote "political stability and economic progress".