We can’t have it both ways. We can’t be both the world’s leading champion of peace and the world’s leading supplier of arms.
--Former President Jimmy Carter, 1976
As ISIS's threat to international peace and security grows, Syria continues to funnel billions of dollars to the United States for bombs and other forms of weapons. As a result of United Nations Resolution 2249, Syria has all of the autonomy in the world to partake in whatever vague, "necessary measures" it sees fit to combat ISIL. Despite the deaths of thousands of civilians attributed to indiscriminate airstrikes lead by the Syrian government, and most recently by Russia, the war against terrorism has led to an all-out arms extravaganza in the Middle East. In fact, on November 13, 2015, the same evening of the terrorist attacks in Paris, the United States began its first steps in selling $1.29 billion of bombs to the Saudi Arabian government.
There's a lot to be said for the inherent conflict of interest in the United States being the poster child for the war against terrorism while remaining the world's top arms dealer behind not-so-closed doors. In December 2014, a global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) became international law and is one of the surest attempts to address arms control in the 21st century. That said, the intent of the Arms Trade Treaty (for weapons exporters to be conscientious of not only to whom they're selling weapons, but for what purposes) remains higly elusive and arguably intangible when the world's leading arms exporters--the U.S., China, and Russia--fail to ratify it.
The United States cannot continue playing on both sides of the fence. As the U.S. continues to funnel thousands of bombs to Syria, it creates more unrest in the Middle East and displaces thousands of innocent civilians, yet publicly refuses to accept refugees. ISIS and the Syrian government aren't the only ones with blood on their hands; the silent, perpetual trail of innocent blood ultimately leads back to the source, the weapon distributors. Every minute, one person dies from armed violence. The economic growth of the United States, or any other country for that matter, should not be derived from the blood of thousands. In a global socio-political climate as turbulent as today’s, countries simply cannot continue to sell weapons to whomever may solicit them. For the sake of global peace and sustainability, human lives and the environment cannot be up for sale.
When considering the correlation between arms control and global terrorism, we may find ourselves at a philosophical question of “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” However, although the flooding of weapons into the Middle East may not be the direct cause of regional terrorism and armed conflict, throwing more weapons at the issue certainly isn't going to help. But are there nonviolent alternatives to combatting terrorism globally?
In the carefully compiled rhetoric surrounding terrorism, somehow the notion of peaceful conflict resolution has been omitted altogether. Physicians for Social Responsibility, Physicians for Global Survival, and the Nobel Prize-winning International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War concluded that the “war on terror” has led to 1.3 million deaths in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan since September 11, 2001. Yet this fact remains blissfully unobserved as some of the world’s leading economies continue to profit off the war against terrorism that has led to more civilian deaths than actual advances in ending global terrorism.
Now more than ever, the time has come to shift the dialogue from arbitrarily pushing blame from one party to the next and endlessly calling for military intervention to collectively working as a global community and seeking realistic and sustainable plans for eliminating terrorism.