Imagine for a moment that in 2010, China’s leaders had announced a long-term, up to $60 billion arms deal with an extreme Islamic fundamentalist regime in the Middle East, one that was notoriously repressive to women and a well-known supporter of the Taliban. Imagine as well that the first $30 billion part of that deal, involving 84 advanced jet fighters, was sealed in 2011, and that, since then, the sales have never stopped: several kinds of helicopters, artillery, armored personnel carriers, upgraded tanks, surface-to-air missile systems, even possibly a litoral combat vessel, among other purchases. Then include one more piece of information in the mix. In 2013, China added in “an advanced class of precision ‘standoff munitions’” — missiles that could be fired from those previously purchased advanced jet fighters.
Given all this, we would know what to think. It would be just the sort of thing you might expect from an unscrupulous, retrograde communist regime with no values whatsoever, one willing above all else to keep the production lines of its weapons makers humming. Washington would long ago have denounced such dealings in no uncertain terms. In fact, such a scenario is utterly fantastic and essentially unimaginable — for China. But it happens to be a perfectly accurate description of the lucrative relationship that American arms makers and the Pentagon have with Saudi Arabia, a country Washington has promoted and sold weaponry to as if there were no tomorrow.
And that’s just to dip a toe into the strange world of the global arms “trade,” though in recent years it’s become something closer to a U.S. monopoly in straightforward dollar terms. Now, TomDispatch regular Michael Klare, author of The Race for What’s Left and an expert on energy and also on that bizarre “trade,” offers a glimpse into its latest grim set of wrinkles — new sales that might signal a twenty-first-century revival of the Cold War. Tom