Responding to your MP
If we didn’t do it, someone else would
There would be no shortage of less responsible countries willing to sell arms if we refused to – such a ban would only therefore cost jobs in the UK and remove whatever restraints we can put in place.
Morality of the argument
This is a common argument used to justify the arms trade, but the morality of it is very questionable, not least because the same argument could be made for selling weapons to absolutely anybody – including Iran, Zimbabwe, Russia or any other oppressive regime that the UK rightly does not arm. And would the same MPs and government ministers also advance this argument to justify other behaviour that causes harm?
How could it be ‘less responsible’?
The attacks, using UK arms, have had a devastating impact. It is hard to see how the situation would be worse if it was another “less responsible” country supplying arms to Saudi Arabia instead.
Tens of thousands have been killed as a direct result of the violence, the majority of deaths caused by bombing by the Saudi-led coalition. Hundreds of thousands more people face hunger and disease, as a result of what the UN has called the
world’s worst humanitarian disaster. In November 2018, Save the Children estimated that 85,000 children may have died from extreme hunger or disease since April 2015.
UK arms don’t impose restraints
There is no evidence that UK arms sales have given the UK meaningful influence over Saudi behaviour, or the conduct of the war. In fact they have the opposite effect, allowing Saudi Arabia to buy almost unquestioning political support from the UK.
If we didn’t do it, we could stop the war
Finally, it is just not true that if the UK decided to limit arms sales to Saudi Arabia, then it could just buy weapons from elsewhere. Saudi Arabia’s airforce is supplied by the UK and US, with UK-made Tornado and Typhoons playing a central role in the bombing, pilots trained by the UK and with UK staff providing training and support in the UK and in Saudi Arabia.
You can’t just swap out the missiles that are used in U.S. planes for suddenly using Chinese and Russian missiles. It takes decades to build your air force. It’s not something you do in one fell swoop.
Rachel Stohl, managing director of the Conventional Defense Program at the Stimson Center, quoted in the Intercept
The UK and US could, if they chose to, ground the Saudi Air Force within days. That they choose not to is a clear demonstration of how the interests of arms companies are prioritised over human rights and security.