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Okay, could somebody try to answer this for me?  When following the Google link on page BritishAerospace, I found this webpage:
Link is dead - got a replacement?  --Vitenka

Via the InternetArchive? - http://web.archive.org/web/20040603142746/http://www.iht.com/IHT/DIPLO/99/jf012099a.html

It's a FinancialTimes?-style report on arms dealing companies, saying that the American arms companies which have had a near-monopoly are now being potentially challenged by British Aerospace.  It's written in quite neutral FT style.  But the thing that gets me is, they alternate between using the PoliticallyCorrect term "defense industry" with the more frank phrase "arms markets".  It quite clearly talks about selling armaments to the Asian market, and suchlike.  And they don't seem to mind.  It seems to be perfectly socially acceptable that they're talking about an industry built around the concept of killing or maiming people.

My question is: is arms trading socially acceptable?
Well, actually, that isn't my question at all.  TonyBlair and large chunks of his government (who're OK with agreeing arms deals with oppressive regimes), not to mention large amounts of shareholders etc, seem to be pretty clear the answer is "Yes".

My question is: why is arms trading socially acceptable? How can selling weapons be socially acceptable?  What's going on... what am I missing?

Because people are broken.  -- Vitenka

I think it's a combination of the We make money off it, who cares about them? approach, the I'll just invest in a pension and not worry about what my money is doing approach and the justification Well, they're going to kill themselves anyway, so we might as well help British industry in the process.  -- Senji

MoonShadow: The same thing that I am missing when I wonder how what the US is currently doing to Iraq is socially acceptable, I would imagine. And presumably similar reasons to why arms production is acceptable in the first place, and why the US is developing bunker-busting nuclear bombs (Google: b61 11 research - it's still ongoing! Last week's New Scientist had yet another gleeful report about the latest developments in the area..) yet can still accuse Saddam - with a straight face! - of possessing donkeys of mass destruction.
[Dark] [blotches] on [satellite] '[photos]. Donkey herds, wedding parties, schools and so on. 1m resolution sounds good until you realise that that means 1 pixel for each square meter. The most you can tell is that there is a building; after that - large school, medium-sized factory, weapons plant - they all look much the same. People that try to tell you otherwise are doing what the [biometrics] [lot] do. It is currently convenient for the US to assert that Iraq has hi-tech weapons other than donkeys and what the US has sold them. *shrugs*
If country A wants to clobber country C, it can send its soldiers in, or it can sell weapons to country B who is at war with country C. Example: the US and the USSR have alternated between fighting with Afghanistan and selling weapons to it, depending on which one was doing which at the time, during the ColdWar.
Haven't you ever sold muskets to the indians in Colonization? Especially if their village happened to be next to one of the other European powers' settlements and very peed off with it?

AlexChurchill: No, never.  I could never bring myself to do it.  Just like I could never bring myself to attack the Inca cities.  I did build musket factories myself: primarily for my own defence, but I have occasionally sold excess muskets to Europe, for the cash.  The difference there, I guess, is that I don't get to *see* what the people I sell my muskets to are doing with them.  Hah.  Which probably goes quite some way to explaining why the British populace don't care about arms trading, and thus it's SociallyAcceptable?.  I bet they'd care if the purchasers were hanging around their local post office at night.
MoonShadow: ..doesn't seem to bother the US gun lobby..
But it's NIMBY, isn't it, and OutOfSightOutOfMind.  Well, I guess that's gone some way to answering my question, anyway...

Which 'socially acceptable' do you mean? At least in Britain the prevailing view seems to be that it's unacceptable. In America, well, America has a fifty-year record of having nuclear weapons but not using them despite extreme temptation. Iraq's current regime has a record of using every weapon at its disposal to horrific effect.

Arms trading is obviously socially acceptable in some circumstances: it would be hard, for example, to find anyone who'd argue against the Rebel Colonies' lend-lease scheme. So you can't be asking why all trading in arms isn't socially unacceptable. I assume the question, then, is why arms trading is acceptable when it's to countries which will use the arms against its own citizens, or in aggression against other countries. How can I take a new paragraph? Ah well, the next one is me too.
(PeterTaylor) Rebel Colonies' lend-lease scheme? How many people have _heard_ of it?
Anyone who knows anything about twentieth-century history? It's not exactly obscure, being a large factor in the second world war.
That's a bit out of my period -- Senji
I think you might be underestimating how obscure it is... I've never heard of it and I have a Baccalaureate in history, gained exclusively from studying 20th Century wars --Mjb67.  So what did they do?  RebelColoniesLendLeaseScheme?, anyone?
That... surprises me. As the event which effectively ended America's neutrality to the European theatre, it could be argued to be among the most important acts in the war, or perhaps even the century. There's a little about it at http://www.yad-vashem.org.il/about_holocaust/month_in_holocaust/march/march_chronology/chronology_1941_march_11.html

To start with, a lot of jobs depend directly on the manufacture of armaments. If Britain were to ban arms exports totally tomorrow an already-fragile economy would be plunged into a downward spiral (rather like a fighter 'plane after being hit, actually). And the government's first concern has to be the welfare of its own citizens.

Secondly, it';;;s not like that would stop these nations from acquiring arms. There's enough ex-Soviet stuff floating around that anyone who wants a missile, an aeroplane, a vial of smallpox or a cupful of fissile material can find it. Better, then, that they get it from us? Not just for the selfish reason that if it's going to happen we might as well profit (though, as I pointed out above, that's a very important consideration) but that we can then keep tabs on what they have, how much they have, and generally keep an eye on them.

So in short unilaterally banning arms trading would achieve nothing beyond crippling our economy, and possibly would have a negative effect generally on world safety. Its only benefit would be as a publicity stunt, and for a publicity stunt it's bloody expensive (literally).

In addition to the comments by UnSigned?, above, most arms companies are TransNational? anyway, or have very interesting rules about production.  It was pointed out by MarkThomas? in his arms trading special that the design for the Hanssler + Koch MP40 machine gun is licensed to many countries around the world, who can make as many as they like provided royalties went to H&K.  Pretending that he was in a country on the UN's "do not export arms to" list he managed to get arms offers from producers and dealers of H&K MP40's in five countries, the paperwork for which would be obfuscated and the shipments routed through special channels.  By the way, if you want to buy 3000 H&K MP40's I think that Pakistan worked out the cheapest source by about 30%... --Jumlian

Once country banning arms sales would create problems for that country.  All countries doing it would work.  Ditto for disarmament and practically everything.  The only way to progress is to somehow have a real whole-world feeling that you should set the example.  --Vitenka
Getting the whole world to do the say thing? Your'll have more luck herding cats.

One would, as an example, point to the convention banning the use of landmines, ratified by most civilised countries except those regarded as mildly to totally despotic, and the US, who claim that they are still a necessary tactic to employ, thus making the convention effectively worthless.  You ban it, someone 'll make it, because when it's illicit, its worth a lot more.  NIMBY will therefore assume control, and that someone will, if you'll excuse the pun, make a killing selling arms.  Companies are typically not bound by morals, being capitalist entities ruled by supply and demand, and neither are countries that are so impoverished that they cannot financially afford to have morals.  -- Jumlian

Aye - what you really need is a ban on countries having such weapons, and then to invade the ones that do and the ones that claim to and the ones that claim not to - but not the ones that do and claim to.  --Vitenka (in a topical moment)
Sensibly though - isn't fewer landmines better than lots?  Otherwise we're just looking at a TragedyOfTheCommons? in the arms production world.  --Vitenka (quote from page you just linked from SilentVote - "A pacifist can't start killing people just because everyone else is doing it")
Oh, and isn't this whole chunk of argument about "Well yes it is bad, but everyone else is doing it so relatively it's not very bad, and it helps us in other ways so what the heck?"  - Or, to put it another way "It's bad, but I'm a bad person.  But you're a bad person too."  --Vitenka

Er, no, what I meant to say was that you will never get everyone signing up to it.  As the number of people left to sign something that is financially damaging grows smaller, the amount that each stands to lose grows bigger as the commodity gets rarer and more valuable.  Another example - Russia and the Kyoto protocol.  US pulls out, meaning Russia has to ratify it for it to officially come into effect in all the other countries that have ratified it.  Horse trading begins as people on both sides try to pull and push the protocol into or out of existence by trading financial favours and treaty concessions.  I am not suggesting that I'm going to make landmines in my garage just because (say) Italy does.  Your argument about surely fewer is better than lots runs into a brick wall unless demand is curtailed because the number of mines doesn't drop - the number of purchasers stays the same, it's just the number of producers that diminishes.  Defence (offense?) companies will move production to those countries that still want to make them, under a front division if need be to avoid the convention banning it.  Companies are not pacifists, especially defence contractors.  They can't afford to be.  You have to kill off demand, which is very difficult if certain major world power(s) refuse to toe the line.  I mean, can you imagine Iran and Syria suddenly ratifying the land mine convention and then asking the UN to sanction a war of aggression against the US for harbouring illicit and internationally condemned weaponry?  I can.  It makes me smile.  Briefly.  --Jumlian

Fundamentally the arms trade isn't about right or wrong, it's about pragmatism (and money of course but that's another matter). Unfortunately the world counts ethics as secondary to pragmatism. As long as there is a need for an army, there's a need for an arms market, and as long as there's an arms market there's a need for an army. And yes there are other needs for an army (see: people are broken) so the argument isn't entirely circular, just self-sustaining. Quite honestly the British could get out of the arms market with short term effects (the tories got away with decimating much larger industries) on the economy, the reason they don't is because we have too much riding on our position as a maintainer of a producer, rather than purchaser of arms in terms of world power (for all its economic clout, Japan still lacks a seat on the UN security council). Fundamentally, the arms market is one of the greatest state-sponsored industries going; we keep it going because it is one of those things we might actually need to defend ourselves one day and we don't trust anyone enough to do it for us (well, we do - but for things like the Falklands and things like that). Once again, it might be flawed reasoning, but it seems to be the one most countries abide by. --Edith

That's all fair enough - so the answer is "It isn't socially acceptable, it's just a safer evil than the alternative"?  And surely, as one of the larger arms producers, we would actually gain in a worldwide reduction in arms sales - even if everyone cut, say TenPercent??  --Vitenka

Er, how?  Can Vitenka justify that, please? --Jumlian, somewhat the worse for wear.
Economies of scale.  If someone was making 10 tanks a year and now only make 1, it's not worth it to them to make any - whereas we make hundreds, so cutting it down doesn't cut out the economic advantage.  But that's still kinda off the 'why is it socially acceptable' thing.  "Because you aren't close to the results" is about the only answer.  Quote from Radio Four:  "But if we stopped selling weapons to countries then we wouldn't have enough money to be able to go to war with them.  That would be... better."  --Vitenka

AmnestyInternational? and Oxfam have just launched a global campaign called MillionFaces? aiming to stop gun running and control the arms trade. They're not trying to outlaw it, or trying to stop all ArmsTrading, but calling for an international Arms Trade Treaty demanding tougher arms controls to make it harder for weapons to get into the wrong hands. As they say, "armed violence wrecks lives by fuelling conflict, poverty, and human rights abuses". See more at http://www.controlarms.org/million_faces/

Ok, so I've got this left one that I don't use all that much. I'd quite like another right one, as I'm more dexterous with rights. Anyone want to swap?

SocialMatters PoliticalMatters - which is it? Both, MoonShadow reckons.

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