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Of Militias and Mercedes-Benzes

The how, why, and everything that can go wrong when we arm the world.

Words: Laicie Heeley
Pictures: Marc Johns / Cast from Clay
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  • It’s hard to overstate how much arms trade and aid factor into US foreign policy. Missiles, aircraft, guns, and more — we sell and give them to others as a way to exert global power without ever putting boots on the ground. It’s a trend Congress has passively greenlit for years. But every deal comes[...]
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It’s hard to overstate how much arms trade and aid factor into US foreign policy. Missiles, aircraft, guns, and more — we sell and give them to others as a way to exert global power without ever putting boots on the ground.

It’s a trend Congress has passively greenlit for years. But every deal comes with risk.

US weapons have a history of ending up in the wrong hands. Or disappearing entirely. Other times, the “right” hands use weapons to perpetuate devastating civilian harm.

On this episode of Things That Go Boom, we dive into the complex world of arms transfers to ask, “Where does Congress fit into scrutinizing US deals?”

The short answer is… it generally doesn’t. That is, unless it wants to.

Listen and subscribe now on Apple PodcastsStitcherSpotifyPocket Casts, or wherever you get your podcasts to receive a new episode every two weeks.

Guests: Lauren Woods, Center for International Policy; Jodi Vittori, Georgetown University

Additional Reading:

Human Rights, Civilian Harm, and Arms Sales: A Primer on US Law and Policy, Center for Civilians in Conflict.

The Hidden Costs of US Security Cooperation, Lauren Woods, Responsible Statecraft.

Sending Weapons To Ukraine Could Have Unintended Consequences, Jordan Cohen, Inkstick.

Mitigating Patronage and Personal Enrichment in US Arms Sales, Jodi Vittori, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Laicie Heeley

Editor in Chief

Laicie Heeley is the founding CEO of Inkstick Media, where she serves as Editor in Chief of the foreign policy magazine Inkstick and Executive Producer and Host of the PRX- and Inkstick-produced podcast, Things That Go Boom. Heeley’s reporting has appeared on public radio stations across America and the BBC, where she’s explored global security issues including domestic terrorism, disinformation, nuclear weapons, and climate change. Prior to launching Inkstick, Heeley was a Fellow with the Stimson Center’s Budgeting for Foreign Affairs and Defense program and Policy Director at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. Her publications include work on sanctions, diplomacy, and nuclear arms control and nonproliferation, along with the first full accounting of US counterterrorism spending after 9/11.

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