Murphy's Law: June 5, 2001

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During the Gulf War, much was made about how it was the fault of the United States for arming Iraq in the first place. Pundits went on about how we were reaping what we had sown. In fact, nearly all Iraq's weapons came from Russia and France. But it makes for a better headline if you can pin it on America, even if you know it not to be the case. Creative ignorance, so to speak. But the ensuing indignation did have a positive effect, or so it seemed. The major arms producing nations (except for China) agreed to show restraint in their future arms sales. The UN established a Code of Conduct for arms exports. Everyone congratulated each other, and business went on as usual. It seems the fine print in the agreement actually allowed for sales to anyone. As long as you were discreet, and employed clever publicists, you could sell to the most wretched dictators and still abide by the Code of Conduct. The French have gone so far as to become, well, less discreet about this arrangement. French arms dealers, faced with the fact that their weapons (produced in smaller quantities) were more expensive than many of their competitors, let it be known that they would sell to just about anyone. Pointing out that France is less likely to take sides than the United States, and more willing to supply weapons to anyone with cash, the French have established themselves as the source of last resort. Sure, you may pay a little more, but that's the price you pay to make sure you get the goods. Most everyone knows of the fine print in the Code of Conduct agreement, such as the ability to place most reported sales in a "miscellaneous" category, and now everyone knows that the French will bend any rules it has to in order to make the sale. How long this charade will last is uncertain. The French government backs this new approach and French diplomats stand ready to lay down a cloud of obfuscation and pious rhetoric to protect questionable sales. Meanwhile, if you gotta have a lot of guns, and you face is on a wanted poster somewhere, just call Paris.


 


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