Atanu Dey On India's Development

The Care and Feeding of the Permanent Arms Industry — Part 2

There must be a cheaper method of ensuring security for India. I am referring to the talk that is going around about the US selling F-16 fighter planes to India. I don’t know how much they cost exactly but I guess that they go for about a $100 million a piece. India may end up getting about 125 of them from the US for a whopping $10 billion. There is much rejoicing going on in some circles at that prospect. For me, that is one of the most depressing news going around.

Recently the US Secretary of State Ms Condoleezza Rice was on a state visit to India. There was much gushing talk about military and high-tech cooperation between the so-called largest democracies. The Indian Foreign Minister Natwar Singh gushed: “The Next Steps in the Strategic Partnership, or NSSP, Phase II should be concluded fairly soon. High Technology trade will continue to grow. We will cooperate more closely in the field of energy. Our defense cooperation will be expanded. Civil aviation is another major area of growth through an Open Skies agreement. This will impact positively on our economic and trade links.”

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In other news, the US is close to selling F-16s to Pakistan. I presume that they are meant for Pakistan’s security. Against which threat, one may ask. India, I suspect. India because India will have F-16s from the US. And why would India want F-16s? I suspect that India has to guard against the threat posed by Pakistan’s purchase of F-16s from the US. It is nothing if not touching to see the concern that the US has for the security of both India and Pakistan. Both are strategic partners to the US.

During the Iran-Iraq war of some decades ago, the US was even-handed and sold arms to both sides. “On Mondays-Wednesdays-Fridays, the US supported Iran; on Tuesdays-Thursdays-Saturdays, it supported Iraq. One day they got the days mixed up – which nearly ended the bloody war. It scared the shit out of the US,” as Mark Russell commented.

Anyhow, in a world of constant change, one is grateful for whatever consistency one finds. The US consistently supports conflict around the globe, arming both sides and giving military aid to whichever side is unable to fork up the cash for the weapons of mass destruction.

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I wish I did not have to refer to an old piece of mine called Dollar Auctions and Deadly Games. But the sad truth is that I could not have asked for a better example of that model. (See also, The Care and Feeding of the US arms industry.)

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Here is something that should warm any war-monger’s heart: Deceit and dollars: U.S. foreign policy secrets from December 2004.

In his gripping tell-all book, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, a guilt-ridden Perkins explains in amazing detail that EHMs are hired guns, employed by consulting companies under contract to the United States government, who loan shark billions of dollars to third world countries to develop their infrastructures.

. . . The money is then funneled back to U.S. companies, through massive engineering and construction projects. The EHM’s job is to saddle these countries with so much debt that they can’t possibly repay it. And there’s the rub. The U.S. dictates repayment terms – a military base here, a UN vote there or access to a debtor country’s natural resources.

. . . Perkins dramatically unveils many recent events where the U.S. called upon EHMs to lend a hand, such as after the 1973 oil embargo. Perkins says Washington began negotiating with Saudi Arabia, offering to take them into the 20th century with technical support, military hardware and training, in exchange for assurances that there would never again be another oil embargo.

. . . Perkins’ primary objective was to assure that a large amount of petrodollars went back to the U.S., and Saudi Arabia’s economy would become intertwined and dependent on the U.S. Presumably Saudi Arabia would then become more westernized and sympathetic towards the U.S. system. However, the modernization infuriated conservative Muslims and made its neighboring countries, especially Israel, feel threatened.

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The Wall Street Journal reports

Lockheed has been pushing Washington hard on both sales. Lockheed officials have told the U.S. that unless it receives new orders by October for the F-16, it will have to begin shutting down its production line late this year. It takes three years to build an F-16, so some work would continue at the facility through 2008.

We don’t want to have Lockheed go bankrupt, do we? Not if “we” refers to the politicians that are bought and paid for by the arms industry. And now to quote myself once again (from The True Weapons of Mass Destruction):

Look carefully at the military-industrial complex of a rich nation such as the US. General Dynamics GD (or some such company which makes, say, figher jets) invests a couple of billion dollars to build F15s (Note: all names are made up.) Let’s say that F15s are the last word in the world of fighter planes. So the US military buys 200 of these killing machines for $50 million a pop. So will GD now retire their assembly line and stop making a killing? No way in hell. They sell a few hundred of these to the allies of the US. Now will they stop? Not bloody likely.

Here is what they do. Now that they are done with selling to the US military and to the militaries of friendly countries, they tell the US government, “Look, everyone has F15s. We need F16s if we have to maintain air superiority.” So they start working on developing the next generation. So the US now has F16s, which are better than the F15s. What about selling the F15s to those third world countries that keep fighting amongst themselves? Sweet deal.

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As I was saying, there must be a cheaper method of ensuring security for India and Pakistan. Talks, for example. But that would not be cheap for the arms dealers and their hired politicians. It would be a disaster for them of peace were to break up. The US imports stuff from all over the world, especially China. Then it outsources and offshores hundreds of thousands of jobs all over the world, especially India. The US has to sell something in exchange, doesn’t it? Sell the poor bastards some F-16s in exchange for all the BPO jobs and other labor intensive stuff we buy from them, goes the refrain.

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Before I am taken to task by someone for stating the above, let me hasten to add that there is no law in the universe which prohibits a country from profiting from the stupidity of other countries. That India and Pakistan are abjectly poor overpopulated underdeveloped nations constantly at each others’ throat willing to further impoverish themselves by buying impossibly expensive weapons from abroad is not the US’s fault. The US merely supplies the arms, it does not directly go and starve millions of people of third world countries. The actual starving of untold millions of abjectly poor people in third rate world countries is because of the warmongering ignorant policy makers that populate these countries.

I wonder who is to blame for this sad state of affairs. I know: us. We are stupid and we elect our stupid government and our policy makers. It is all karma, neh?

[Part 1 of the "Care and Feeding of the Permanent Arms Industry."]

  • http://aatman.blogspot.com Anant Arora

    very well contrived, Atanu! I accord that we are no more than a bunch of creepy vermints who blindly follow the tenets and rituals of the ‘Father of the Inter-nation’ (read: GWB).

    I wonder, how much do we spend on the maintenance and after-purchase costs of artilleries and is it useful to spend such behemothic amount of weapons?

  • http://arthashastra.blogspot.com kautilya

    F-16 costs approx $25 million per plane

  • Navin

    “The US has to sell something in exchange, doesn’t it? Sell the poor bastards some F-16s in exchange for all the BPO jobs and other labor intensive stuff we buy from them, goes the refrain”

    I would agree to this. As long we become self sufficient or atleast co-operate within ASEAN for high tech equipments like Medical equipments (now bought from GE etc), fighter planes, passenger planes etc, we are going to end up paying ridiculously massive amounts like this.

  • http://www.MykesWeblog.com Myke

    Spending other people’s money must be great fun, especially when there are under-the-table incentives for doing so.

    It appears that when a country imports jobs from the US, it must also buy US debt, war machines, and cigarettes. Is this Free Trade?

  • http://www.beyond-reason.blogspot.com sudhir

    No substitute for self reliance in security matters, IMHO. Until we’re able to design and build our own advanced arms 9fighter jets, aircraft carriers, bofor-type heavy guns, main battle tanks etc) we’re better off picking up tech from the (admittedly imperfect) market. Remember, weakness always invites hyenas – whether of the Jihadi or the Chinese variety).

    To its credit, the US, I must add, though is shouldering a disproportionate burden in terms of ensuring maritime security to the world’s sea trading routes, ensuring an ungrateful Europe’s security throughout the cold war and so on. (OK, so the motives weren’t all altruistic to start with). Taiwan, south korea and japan have at least paid hard currency for the US security umbrella. (And something tells me these countries would rather have a US security umbrella rather than a Chinese one!)

    But I would agree that maybe F-16s aren’t really the way to go in building up security. I’d rather the govt spent that money on physical (Roads and powerplants) and institutional infrastructure (more courts and judges, more e-governance etc) instead.

  • Walker

    While I agree with the general sentiment, there is a significant caveat in this case. It seems that much of the F-16 production may be done in India…

    http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/1054192.cms

    The technology transfer this represents could be highly beneficial to India and will carry over into non-defense industries as well. India’s goverment seems to be negotiating hard for technology transfers in this and other defense areas, for this perhaps it is due some credit.

  • http://wetware.blogspot.com Reuben

    Atanu,
    You haven’t mentioned the U.S. pressure on Pakistan to scuttle the India/Pakistan/Iran pipeline. In some ways, the pipeline would be a real guarantor of peace on the sub-continent when you consider how much Pakistan would lose in rights-of-way revenues if there was any conflict. So there’s a real economic incentive for everyone to keep the peace.

    Now, you have the U.S. trying to scuttle the pipeline AND trying to sell both the Indians and Pakistanis the same weapons systems. Under the circumstances, their oft-repeated rhetoric of wanting stability on the sub-continent rings a bit hollow.

  • Rick

    It was depressing yesterday to read the news ‘selling Arms to Pakistan and India’ to maintain the parity! It is outrageous! And atleast at one place, I raed ‘F16s to Pak so that can fight the war on terrorism better’! All this helps only the Arms dealers and politicians making money out of it – and big losers are the people of Pakistan and India who could have been much better of with the money spent on water, electricity, road, healthcare infrastructure.

  • Venkat Ramanan

    Hey Atanu!
    Is there any way to stop our netas and babus from buying F-XX’s from US? If yes, please let me know so that we will do it ASAP! When there are so many people who are dying without food and water in our country, what the heck is the need of these WMDs??? oh God, for a few Gandhian notes, our bull shit politicians will even sell human beings… WHEN WILL WE SEE A BETTER (RULED) COUNTRY??

  • vikas

    We are jumping the gun. US is just offering us F-16′s, nothing wrong in that. In the fray along with the F-16 are the Sukhois and Mirages. F-16, for whatever tech that US has, cannot compare with the prowess of a Su30MKI(specially made for India..I in MKI is Indiski or India), leave alone Sukhoi modern versions. Su30 is comparable to what US is developing now with all the thrust vectoring ideas et al. It only lacks in stealth. Yes, Russian and French might come second best in lobbying but the real purchaser is the Indian Air Force. I do not see a F16 winning in a fight against a Sukhoi 30MKI, ever. F16 wins only in price terms thats it. Roughly,

    2 F-16′s = 1 Su30MKI.

  • jayabal

    Need Jobs

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  • xcalibor

    I dont think indians are so stupid enough to fall for this candy. for 50 years many countrys tried and failed to split india in to peases even china knows that true supiriority is in economics not arms. i belive pak fell for the us candys but indians past reaction to this us candys is allways been a big slap on the face.remember when indian parliment was attacked india build up its largest arm forces to loc but wht stoped it from going across the loc was economics.not politics. which is a good sign.

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