Maybe Pumping Weapons Into Unstable Countries Is a Bad Idea?

The violent government crackdowns on protests across the Middle East this year are apparently starting to weigh on the minds of Western governments who supply despots with the latest, greatest killing machines on the market. Well, sort of.

The one time PR man for the U.S. occupation of Iraq, now-retired General Mark Kimmitt told NPR, "[Libya] was a promising market, because we saw it as a promising relationship," speaking of increased trade ties with Libya in recent years. The U.S. wouldn't sell Libya weapons until they improved their human rights record, which they sort of seemed to be doing, depending on what you consider an improvement. Oh, but then these uprisings had to go and ruin everything for free market gun-selling entrepreneurs. Here's a libertarian think tank's take:

"Whenever unrest spreads in places like the Middle East, there's a tendency for Western governments to become cautious in making arms transfers," says Loren Thompson, a defense industry analyst at the Lexington Institute. "They either take longer to sign contracts, or they take longer to actually deliver weapons that have been contracted, because they're worried the weapons may fall into the hands of anti-Western regimes."

In other words, when suppressed people rise up against tyrannical regimes, capitalism loses. We love selling weapons to pro-Western regimes that violently suppress their own people just as long as they're able to maintain their grip on power. Countries like, say, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Tunisia, Algeria and so on. But when popular uprisings take the upper hand, well, that's a whole different story. Don't sweat it though, because the U.S. defense industry has a great track record of doing the right thing:

"When we sell key components to other countries, we have a strict end-use monitoring program," says Kimmitt, now executive vice president at Advanced Technology Systems Co., a defense contractor. "If a country turns against us, we can turn off the spigot."

Yeah, that really works! Cutting off the flow of weapons after tens of thousands of weapons have already been dumped into a country with a barely functioning, corrupt government works wonders.

[A Lockheed Martin salesman prepares an awesome display of firepower at an international weapons show via AP]