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The New Business of War: Small Arms and the Proliferation of Conflict

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 September 2012


In his “We the Peoples” report issued in conjunction with the September 2000 United Nations Millennium Summit, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan advocated a re-energized worldwide effort to prevent war by promoting democracy, human rights, and “balanced economic development”—and by curbing “illicit transfers of weapons, money, or natural resources” that help fuel ethnic and territorial conflicts.

Copyright © Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs 2001

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1 Annan, Kofi A., “We the Peoples”: The Role of the United Nations in the 21st CenturyGoogle Scholar; available at, p. 3.

2 Regehr, Ernie, “Introduction,” Armed Conflicts Report 2000 (Waterloo, Canada: Project Ploughshares, 2000Google Scholar), available at http://www.ploughshares/ca/content/ACR/ACR00-Introduction.html); Renner, Michael, “Ending Violent Conflict,” State of the World 1999: A Worldwatch Institute Report on Progress Toward a Sustainable Society (New York: W.W. Norton, 1999), p. 153Google Scholar.

3 Hartung, William D. and Moix, Bridget, “Cold War Legacies,” Focus on Africa (2000Google Scholar); available at

4 Collier, Paul, Economic Causes of Civil Conflict and Their Implications for Policy (Washington, D.C.: World Bank, June 15, 2000), pp. 1528Google Scholar.

5 For more detailed definitions of small arms and light weaponry, see Rana, Swadesh, Small Arms and Intra-State Conflicts (Geneva: United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, 1995), pp. 23; and Boutwell, Jeffrey, Klare, Michael T., and Reed, Laura W., eds., Lethal Commerce: The Global Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons (Cambridge, Mass.: American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1995), p. 33Google Scholar.

6 George, Musser and Nemecek, Sasha, “Waging a New Kind of War,” Scientific American, June 2000, p. 47Google Scholar.

7 International Committee of the Red Cross, Arms Availability and the Situation of Civilians in Armed Conflict (Geneva, June 1999), p. 8Google Scholar.

8 On child soldiers, see Boothby, Neil G. and Knudsen, Christine M., “Children of the Gun,” Scientific American, June 2000, pp. 6065CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed; on the trauma caused by “small wars,” see Mollica, Richard F., “Invisible Wounds,” Scientific American, June 2000, pp. 5457CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed.

9 Boutwell, Jeffrey and Klare, Michael T., “A Scourge of Small Arms,” Scientific American, June 2000, pp. 4853CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed; the reference to Taylor is on p. 51.

10 Commany Wesseh, “Small Arms Are a Big Problem” (speech at forum cosponsored by the Hague Appeal for Peace, the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, the World Conference on Religion and Peace, and the World Policy Institute, UN Headquarters in New York, January 9, 2001)Google Scholar.

11 For the best analysis to date of the dynamics of the business of war, see Reno, William, Warlord Politics and African States (Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner, 1999Google Scholar).

12 Boutwell, and Klare, , “A Scourge of Small Arms,” pp. 4950Google Scholar.

13 For detailed documentation of the activities of Viktor Bout and some proposals for regulating illicit arms traders, see UN Security Council, Final Report of the Monitoring Mechanism on Angola Sanctions, UN Document S/2000/1225, December 21, 2000, pp. 11–20, 30–38, and 50–61Google Scholar.

14 In fact, the National Rifle Association is devoting substantial resources to lobbying against measures to stem the flow of small arms at the national, regional, or international levels. See Natalie Goldring, “The NRA Goes Global,”Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (January/February 1999), pp. 6165Google Scholar.

15 Klare, Michael, “The Kalashnikov Age,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (1999), p. 19Google Scholar.

16 Arias, Oscar, “Stopping America's Most Lethal Exports,” New York Times, June 23, 1999Google Scholar.

17 Klare, , “The Kalashnikov Age,” pp. 22–21Google Scholar.

18 International Action Network on Small Arms, (IANSA) Founding Document 6, May 1999Google Scholar; available at

19 For the Boutros-Ghali quote and an excellent chronology of UN statements and activities on the small arms issue, see David Biggs, “United Nations Contribution to the Process,” in the special issue, “Small Arms Control: The Need for Coordination,” Disarmament Forum 2 (Geneva: United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, 2000Google Scholar).

20 Ibid., pp. 3233Google Scholar.

21 Ibid., p. 32Google Scholar.

22 For a thoughtful consideration of the challenges facing the UN small arms conference, see Smith, Chris, “The 2001 Conference—Breaking Out of the Arms Control Framework,” in Disarmament Forum 2, (Geneva: United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, 2000), pp. 3945Google Scholar.

23 Gillard, Emanuela-Chiara, “What's Legal?—What's Illegal,” in Lumpe, Lora, ed., Running Guns: The Global Black Market in Small Arms (London: Zed Books, 2000), p. 27Google Scholar.

24 On the “boomerang” effect of U.S. arms transfers made for one purpose being turned against U.S. citizens and U.S. forces in other circumstances, see Hartung, William D., U.S. Weapons at War (New York: World Policy Institute, 1995), pp. 1013Google Scholar and 19–23. On leakage from the CIA's Afghan arms pipeline into other conflict zones, see Smith, Chris, “Light Arms and Ethnic Conflict in South Asia,” in Boutwell, Klare, and Reed, , eds., Lethal Commerce, pp. 6264Google Scholar.

25 Renner, Michael, “Arms Control Orphans,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (1999), p. 23Google Scholar.

26 Figures cited by Peter Bachelor of the Small Arms Survey during the discussion period after a panel on small arms held at UN headquarters in New York, October 12, 2000. See for research papers by the Small Arms Survey and details on the release of their forthcoming yearbook.Google Scholar

27 For a state-of-the-art view of what governments and nonstate actors can and should do in the field of small arms regulation and control, see Sarah Meek, “Combating Arms Trafficking: Progress and Prospects”; Ted Leggett, “Law Enforcement and International Gun Trafficking”; and Lora Lumpe, “Summary of Recommendations for States and Citizens,” all in Lumpe, Running Guns, pp. 183232Google Scholar.

28 The firearms protocol is discussed in Meek, , “Combating Arms Trafficking,” pp. 199202Google Scholar.

29 On the issue of licensed production of small arms see Abel, Peter, “Manufacturing Trends: Globalizing the Source,” in Lumpe, Running Guns, pp. 81104Google Scholar; on regulating brokers and shippers, see Wood, Brian and Peleman, Johann, “Making the Deal and Moving the Goods: The Role of Brokers and Shippers,” also in Running Guns, pp. 129–54Google Scholar.

30 The Axworthy quote is from Mathiak, Lucy and Lumpe, Lora, “Government Gun Running to Guerrillas,” in, Lumpe Running Guns, p. 73Google Scholar.

31 Ibid., p. 76Google Scholar.

32 For background on the code of conduct campaign in the United States and links to information on activities around the world, consult the Internet site of the Arms Sales Monitoring Project of the Federation of American Scientists at For detailed analysis of the EU Code and other regional and international efforts, also consult the Web site of the British American Security Information Council (BASIC), at http://www.basicint.orgGoogle Scholar.

33 The rough estimate of the U.S. share of global stockpiles of small arms is from a presentation made by Natalie Goldring of the University of Maryland at a workshop on small arms sponsored by the UN Department of Disarmament Affairs in conjunction with the NGO Committee on Disarmament, held at UN Headquarters in New York on October 12, 2000Google Scholar.

34 For a more detailed discussion of this critical point, see Wendy Cukier and Steven Shropshire, “Domestic Gun Markets: The Licit-Illicit Links,” in Lumpe, Running Guns, pp. 105–28Google Scholar.

35 UN Security Council, Report of the Panel of Experts on Violations of Security Council Sanctions Against UNITA, March 10, 2000; available at For a detailed assessment of the practicalities of stemming the flow of conflict diamonds, see the excellent reports by the London-based nongovernmental research group Global Witness, Conflict Diamonds: Possibilities for the Identification, Certification, and Control of Diamonds and A Rough Trade: The Role of Companies and Governments in the Angolan Conflict, available at For background on U.S. covert aid to UNITA, see Mathiak, Lucy, “Light Weapons and Internal Conflict in Angola,” in Klare and Boutwell, Lethal Commerce, pp. 8197Google Scholar.

36 Associated Press, “Halt to ‘Blood Diamonds’ Urged,” October 25, 2000. For a recent analysis of the “blood diamonds” problem, see John Hirsch's occasional paper for the International Academy, Peace, Sierra Leone: Diamonds and the Struggle for Democracy (Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner, 2001Google Scholar).

37 Collier, Paul, Economic Causes of Civil Conflict and Their Implications for Policy (Washington, D.C.: World Bank Development Research Group, 2000), p. 20Google Scholar. See also Collier, Paul and Hoeffler, Anke, “Greed and Grievance in Civil War” (Washington, D.C.: World Bank Policy Research Group Working Paper 2355, 2000Google Scholar).

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