Machiavellian Smack Down

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) recently announced a planned sale of 18 F-16s to Pakistan. Yes, that Pakistan. The one in turmoil. A failing state, according to some. The one that reportedly has received 10 billion in U.S. aid since 2001. The announcement came shortly after the assassination of the top rival to Pakistan Prime Minister Pervez Musharraf.

As uncomfortable as this sale might appear, it is not a first.

The deal is a part of the Foreign Military Sales program, a legitimate — and apparently effective — U.S. foreign policy tool rooted in the late 1940s. It’s all about building relationships, maintaining ties, and remaining relevant in the military workings of nations big and small around the world. The F-16 government-to-government deal was probably in the works for quite awhile, though its announcement might appear ill-timed. It’s a legit contract in what’s considered a transparent program. Congress had its chance to pull the plug and didn’t.

There are nations the U.S. has sold arms to that would not make the cut today. Up until about four years ago, we were selling to Venezuela. There was a time we sold to China. Maybe most illustrative are the sales to Iran in the 1970s. Iran held strategic importance, and we supported Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. In 1977, Congress and Carter administration officials were at odds over the proposed sale of a large number of F-16s to Iran. Though the Shah was still in power, Iran was extremely unstable and in the throes of revolution. Iran already had purchased a large number of F-14 Tomcats in the early 1970s. Now Iran seems to make sport of provoking U.S. warships. Gotta love those guys.

It might be true that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, especially in arms sales. Sales can keep friends close and, in some cases, enemies closer. (Cue “Godfather” theme.) Is a sale so bad if you have access and influence over a country? Some influence over, say, Iran, would be nice.

Call us Machiavels, and maybe that’s a good thing.

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