12 March 2014

Saudi arms sales—the triumph of economics over morality

If nothing else, it illustrates how, in the world of international relations, economics trumps morality. I refer to General Dynamics Land Systems Canada landing a deal to sell light-armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia. The deal was announced last month by International Trade Minister Ed Fast who praised it as a major success for Canadian diplomacy.

Now how on earth can selling arms to Saudi Arabia possibly be a cause for celebration? The Saudi regime is one of the world's most oppressive dictatorships and certainly its most misogynistic. According to Human Rights Watch, “In Saudi Arabia, 2013 was another bad year for human rights, marred by executions and repression of women and activists.” And Saudi repression isn't just local. In 2011, Saudi Arabia invaded Bahrain to suppress dissent by the Shiite majority against another gulf dictator. The vehicles we are about to sell them could conceivably be used in their next invasion or, for that matter, against their own people.

And why is our government, a government that has in the past objected to religious discrimination around the world, championing the sales of military equipment to a regime that forbids the public worship of any religion but Islam and even systematically discriminates against Muslim faiths other than its own?

The answer of course is money. The contract is worth $10-billion over 14 years and will sustain more than 3,000 jobs annually. This is the lipstick on the pig.

And there's a bigger picture. Saudi Arabia controls 25 per cent of the world's oil supply, giving it a uniquely influential role in the world economy. It is a country too big to fail. So if the Saudis want weapons, the Saudis get weapons. And our government is happy to help, morality be damned.

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