President Trump horrified liberals last Friday when he withdrew the US from a United Nations treaty on the arms trade — but, despite the howls of leftist outrage, this move doesn’t actually make the world a more dangerous place. The truth is, our country has nothing to learn from the UN when it comes to selling weapons responsibly, and Trump has made a sensible move to simplify governance and take back American sovereignty.
Barack Obama signed the US up for the UN’s Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) in 2013, and it came into effect the following year. However, it’s never been ratified by Congress because lawmakers had real concerns about how it would impact our defense industry. Rights groups like the NRA have also been opposed to it, arguing that it threatens the rights of American gun owners.
- The ATT writers had good intentions — the aim was to stop “irresponsible” arms sales into conflict zones, where new deliveries of weapons can intensify existing violence or keep existing combat going longer.
- Some countries will sell weapons to practically anyone. Russia is one example; arms are one of Moscow’s biggest export earners, and they’re willing to deliver to just about anybody with the money to pay them. France is another traditionally free trader in the arms market.
- The US, on the other hand, is not a nation that sells to anybody. Since WWII, US arms sales have been controlled for a variety of reasons.
- We’ve known since the early 1940s that supplying — or not supplying — weapons is a powerful foreign policy tool. Whether or not the US sells weapons into a region can have a big influence on what happens there. A few planeloads of American military equipment can easily swing the balance of power. That’s a lever the government doesn’t let go of, so US arms sales have always been controlled.
- There’s also the issue of technology. We make the most advanced and powerful weapons in the world, and we don’t want that tech falling into the wrong hands. Look at the controversial F-35 stealth warplane. Only a few selected close allies are being allowed to buy it, and only one — the UK — is a development partner, because they’re supplying some of the technology.
- Around 100 countries have signed the ATT; notable exclusions include Russia and China, which are both selling weapons indiscriminately. France has signed it but is still marketing arms all over the world, proving one thing: the ATT isn’t having any effect.
- President Trump says that the US already has controls on arms sales that are the gold standard around the world, so why hand power to unelected foreign bureaucrats? As he dramatically revoked Obama’s signature at the NRA’s annual convention last week, the cheering audience enthusiastically agreed.