From Lebanon to Lockheed by
There is not a trace of blood in Anthony Sampson’s account of the international market in weapons, but beneath the cool and meticulous reporting of The Arms Bazaar is a sense of horror at money and fear gone wild. The multi-billion-dollar flea market in which arms of enormous destructive potential are bartered for favors and glory, Sampson writes, operates today outside the bounds of rational diplomacy and global sense. A juggernaut of competition leaves no ground for allegiance or ideology.
The story of international arms trade is a century old. Alfred Krupp was the first arms merchant whose wares equipped a nation for war, and in the wars that were to come other men, strong and ambitious, followed his path. In great part, Sampson chooses to explore the development of the world weapons market through them, the purveyors, entrepreneurs, and men at the peak of corporate power whose fortunes and reputations swirl around war and peace. The portraits are large and frightening. Equally bold is Sampson’s analysis of the dynamics of weapons trade, the history of the peculiar economic and political pressures in Europe and the United States that provided momentum for spiraling arms sales.
In 1961, Robert McNamara decided that the Pentagon must sell weapons to Europe with as much energy as he had once sold Fords. Some thirteen years later, Richard Nixon promised to sell the shah of Iran virtually any nonnuclear weapon he wanted, and a money-bloated and insecure Middle East became the hottest arms market in history. Today, the United States is responsible for one half of the world’s arms trade, and that ignoble position, says Sampson, has been secured by the singular acts of a very few men, who have failed to see a moral difference between a weapon and any other salable commodity. The Arms Bazaar ably documents a nightmare of greed and folly.