Archive for category Causes of conflict

Small Arms Big Cause of Death in Conflict

With British machine gun maker Manroy poised to expand its operations, and the UK eager to step up exports, Britain will be expanding its role in the misery caused by small arms in conflicts around the world.

One of the biggest problems with small arms is the ‘leakage’ of weapons to a variety of actors from dictatorships and authoritarian regimes, to insurgent groups and criminal gangs. Many small arms are sold to security forces and used to repress their own populations. Small arms are easy to store and don’t quickly become obsolete, so they are often recycled from conflict to conflict.

Some small arms manufacturers actively pursue illegal markets, and in other cases arms sold to ‘legitimate’ customers are redirected to particularly unsavoury markets. Governments are often eager to increase export sales, and drop ethical considerations. The  UK Trade and Investment Defence and Security Organisation  has put the following countries on its export priority list: Algeria, Australia, Brazil, Brunei, India, Iraq, Japan, Kuwait, Libya, Malaysia, Mexico, Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the USA. (Source) Included in these countries are many authoritarian dicatorships, unstable conflict-riven countries, and western countries with a history of intervention in foreign lands. Note that the list was created before we fell out with the authoritarian Quadhafy regime in Libya. The UK government was willing to supply arms to an unstable dictatorship that only a few month later we are at war with.

Small arms are often a high cause of death in conflicts, much greater than public perception. News reports tend to focus on large scale violence and bombings, not the slow dribble of violence that goes on day after day killing large numbers of people unspectacularly and often out of sight. Small arms including machine guns are a significant source of accidental deaths.

A good source of information on small arms proliferation is the Small Arms Survey. Here is their report on Heavy Machine Guns.

The Federation of American Scientists has prepared a good article on the global threat of small arms.

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More articles on arms trade as a cause of conflict.

There’s not a lot of literature establishing the arms trade as a cause of conflict and violence. There’s lots of evidence showing the toll of small arms in killing and maiming civilian populations, however. I’ll try to accumulate whatever evidence I can find linking arms sales with the start of conflict. (One good place might be the sale of arms to Georgia, which permitted the Georgian government a level of beligerence that led to a brush war with Russia).

Here’s one that looks good and needs to be read and summarised. (Help me?) Review Conference on the Illicit Small Arms Trade, 27 June 2006

Here’s a reference where Oxfam states that small arms don’t start wars. Global Military Spending Set to Top Cold War High As Conflict Causes Hunger, Oxfam International, 20 September, 2006

“Year on year arms spending escalates and year on year conflicts are causing more hunger and suffering. Arms sales do not start conflicts, but they certainly fuel and lengthen them. It is time the world stemmed the uncontrolled flood of weapons into the world’s war zones. The world must agree to start work on an Arms Trade Treaty this October,” said Bernice Romero, Oxfam International’s Campaigns Director.

Another great summary:

Anup Shah, Small Arms—they cause 90% of civilian casualties,, Last updated: Saturday, January 21, 2006

Yet another great article, this time with a map showing the main arms producer, and the conflict areas where they are used. Alex Steffan, Ending the Small Arms Trade, World Changing, 2 January, 2007


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Arms trade causes conflict?

Here is a article that sounds very interesting with respect to the impact of arms sales on initiating subsequent conflict. I haven’t acquired or read this article. It is available for purchase (or free use for qualified users) from Jstore

The Arms Trade and the Incidence of Political Violence in Sub-Saharan Africa, 1967-97

  • Cassady Craft and Joseph P. Smaldone
  • Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 39, No. 6 (Nov., 2002), pp. 693-710   (article consists of 18 pages)
  • Published by: Sage Publications, Ltd.

Abstract:”The role of the weapons trade has often been ignored in the study of conflict. This article presents empirical research that strongly supports a broad conceptualization of armed conflict in Africa and addresses a critical gap in the literature on the arms trade and war. Using multivariate binomial logistic regression, it finds that arms transfers are significant and positive predictors of increased probability of war. The models, which also include posited conflict-related domestic political, economic, military, and cultural variables, explain 90% of the cases and two-thirds of the war cases, thus making a further contribution to the understanding of conflict dynamics and correlates. In addition to arms transfers, six other variables — semi-democracy, regime transitions, military spending, cumulative previous conflict, and ethno-political groupings — correctly predict war incidence, while economic development exhibits the expected negative relationship; two other factors — repression and colonial legacy — contrary to expectations, are also negatively related. The analysis and findings, while not asserting explicit causal links between arms transfers and the incidence of political violence, support the view that weapons acquisitions are virtually necessary as ingredients in the recipe for war, and that meaningful restraint by suppliers and recipients alike is needed to break the nexus between arms and conflict in sub-Saharan Africa.”


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