The U.S. has delivered the first batch of F-16 fighter jets to Iraq. How long until ISIS grabs them? How long before Iraq’s BFF Iran reverse engineers them from nose to tail? How exactly is this even remotely in the interest of the security of the U.S. citizens whose government approved this deal?
In the field in which I teach and write, Conflict Transformation, we refer to the conflict industry. The concept is simple. If a person or group stands to gain by the initiation or prolongation of destructive conflict, that person or group is part of the conflict industry. The gain may be financial, in status, in power, or in some combination. And the conflict industry is almost always a small group, while the destruction tends to happen to larger groups.
The Iraq conflict is a textbook case, from the 2003 invasion and for the 12 years since. It was undertaken by choice, not necessity, and it has cost Iraqis and Americans dearly, but profited a small group of powerful, rich elites.
Those war profiteers include high-ranking military, war-promoting politicians, and the corporate recipients of massive Pentagon contracts.
ISIS furthers the aims of this wing of the conflict industry perfectly, and indeed there is some evidence the US promoted the idea of a caliphate in a portion of Syria. Now that the caliphate includes part of Iraq and threatening to metastasize around the Gulf and south to Africa, are these U.S. conflict industry strategists excited or are they saying “Oops”?
It’s a very costly variant of the old Doritos motto: Go ahead. We’ll make more. How many hundreds of billions in weapons have been given to various Iraqi military commanders? Some of those killing machines have been siphoned off to private parties, some is in the hands of Iraqi military leaders whose loyalties are much stronger to Iran, and some was seized by ISIS as they rout the Iraqi military — that same Iraqi military created, funded, trained, and equipped by the U.S. for a dozen years. The Iranian Shiite militia is realistically going to end up controlling at least some of the planned 36 F-16s. Their “Popular Mobilization” outflanks, outfights, and on the ground outranks the U.S. Iraq mock army.
In the end, the U.S. citizenry is made less secure by arms transfers. Our Congress must approve these transfers and they should end it. The region is flooded with U.S. weapons, forever falling into the wrong hands. Hawkish politicians and “Responsibility to Protect” officials alike are simply proven wrong again and again; arms to the Middle East and North Africa is gasoline pumped onto a fire. Stop it.
Tom H. Hastings is faculty in the Conflict Resolution Department at Portland State University and is founding director of PeaceVoice.