In Libya, the U.S. continues a long tradition of arming future enemies.

US Marine Corps M1A1 on a live fire exercise in Iraq, 2003 (Wikicommons)

The United States has a long history of arming its enemies. From Afghanistan and Somalia to Haiti and Panama, U.S.-made weapons supplied to former allies have a nasty tendency to turn on their maker. The Obama administration thought Jordan, a close partner in the U.S. fight against terrorism, would be different. But a recent investigation by The New York Times and Al-Jazeera reveals that arms shipped by the Central Intelligence Agency to train rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad of Syria were systematically stolen and sold on the black market by Jordanian intelligence operatives.

It is not clear whether those arms have ended up in the hands of the Islamic State or other militants, but some of the stolen weapons have been tied to the killing of two Americans and three others at a police training facility in Amman in November.


Yet the United States seems determined to learn nothing from even its recent history. In May, Secretary of State John Kerry and top officials from the four other permanent U.N. Security Council member countries announced they were ready to make exceptions to the arms embargo on Libya and ship weapons to prop up its fledgling government in the fight against the Islamic State and other militant groups. Just a month later, without a hint of irony, the U.N. Security Council, “expressing deep concern at the threat posed by unsecured arms and ammunition in Libya and their proliferation,” voted to allow E.U. maritime forces to seize illegal weapons off Libya’s coast. Instead of fueling the arms trade, the United States should be making every effort to stop the trafficking of refugees that has proliferated there in the post-Arab Spring power vacuum. That means supporting governance, not simply supplying guns.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
J Cosgrove
2 years 6 months ago
In some ways I agree with this article because the foreign policy of the current administration has been a supposedly hands off one for direct US involvement. But at the same time our polices have been to destabilize parts of the world that end up in turmoil, Egypt, Libya and Syria are the best examples. We will then let others solve the problems from this destabilization as we supply them with economic help, material supplies and minor arms (except in certain circumstances such as supplying major armaments to Qatar that ended up with Al Qaeda.} So we arm rag tag freedom fighters and Islamist extremist and what do we get? The answer is Chaos. The exception has been Egypt which overthrew our supported Islamic Brotherhood. The authors of this brief article fail to say what should be done. Encouragement only is not an answer. To get a stable Europe and Far East after World War II, we maintained hundreds of thousands of troops for over 50 years as well as ensuring stable governance in these countries. But such a policy in the Middle East was fought against by the current administration and what has been the result? All the money we spent for the security of Europe and the Far East from 1945 to the 1990's has paid out in a much stabler world and the free trade that comes with it. World wealth increased several fold during such a period of relative stability. Maybe we should return to that model.
Charles Erlinger
2 years 6 months ago
J, neither you nor the editors have followed the advice that you hand out with regard to problem solving, which is a standard set of steps that came out in the late '40s and early 50s, that many of us got courtesy of military training but which is still being promulgated by consultants for fancy fees. It starts out with a problem definition that puts bounds on the situation seen as a problem and an end-state formulation seen as the desired objective, followed by a set of steps to achieve the desired end-state (which could involve parallel paths, one being the principal, the other(s) seen as alternatives) and some kind of proof-test of the achieved end-state to determine whether the objective has been achieved as intended. The strategy itself should have two essential characteristics, among other lesser characteristics, namely, feasibility and flexibility. The essentiality of the flexibility characteristic is due to the concrete nature of the individual steps in the strategy. Each planned step must be successful in order to make the following planned step possible, but in real life, as distinct from policy theory, all kinds of things can potentially go wrong in step execution, the rational consequence of which is a change in plan or an alternative strategy. Here is an instance in which consistency of strategy might well lead to catastrophe. If you've ever tried to do what I've just described, you know that being glib about the issue tends to make one very uncomfortable.


The latest from america

Screengrab from a viral video showcasing a confrontation between a Native American drummer and a group of Catholic high school students in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 18, 2019. Screenshot via YouTube.
Several clips of the encounter circulating on social media show a small group of Native American drummers, who were in Washington for the Indigenous People’s March, being surrounded by a much larger band of teenagers.
Pope Francis has suppressed the Ecclesia Dei Commission, a significant decision with consequences for the Holy See’s relations with the priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X.
Gerard O’ConnellJanuary 19, 2019
Photo: IMDB
A new Netflix miniseries brings out the story’s aspects of adventure and conflict, with occasionally pulse-pounding results.
Rob Weinert-KendtJanuary 19, 2019
Protestors march to support a U.N. anti-corruption commission in Guatemala City on Jan. 6. Photo by Jackie McVicar.
“What they are doing not only puts Guatemala at risk but the entire region. Bit by bit, for more than a year, they have been trying to divide us. The elections are at risk. We are six months away.”
Jackie McVicarJanuary 18, 2019