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A world awash in weapons

missiles anyone?
missiles anyone?
Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images

The scary part about the Russian backed rebels shooting down of Malaysian Airlines flight 17 is the fact they now have the weaponry capable of performing such an act. Typically, these types of rag-tag forces would have the ability to utilize the shoulder fired "Stinger" type surface to air missiles which are not as accurate and cannot reach the altitude of the type that brought down the airliner a few weeks ago. It's a sign that terrorists of any stripe are beginning to attain weapons of superior capability. It won't be long before any force or terrorist group can get their hands on these and other weapons which ups the ante and the threat to most anyone flying anywhere. The group formerly known as ISIS which has taken over substantial territory in Iraq, was able to confiscate weapons left by the American forces when we occupied that country. This is the obvious question we'll need to ponder when we invade countries with various groups who have a design on creating terror against any government or sect of people. The chickens as it were, are coming home to roost, and it may not be long before we're fighting those factions who are using American made weapons. America is the world's premier arms builder.

What happened in Ukraine is fairly obvious, but it's clear now that forces who can get their hands on more modern and advanced weapons can cause greater harm than even just a few years ago. We need to alert the world that it will take a concentrated effort to fight and defeat all those who would take out civilian airliners, even at the risk of admitting we did the same a few decades back. Americans may not remember or care to recall, but our Navy shot down an Iranian commercial airliner on July 3rd, 1988. The Navy ship, USS Vincennes shot down the Iranian plane carrying 290 passengers. Our government and military tried to dodge responsibility for this initially but eight years later we admitted our mistake and paid the Iranians over $130 million for it. It doesn't matter to go into all the initial chatter concerning this episode, but we screwed up, and at the time, the Vincennes had cutting edge technology so how we mistook this airliner as a threat is disconcerting. Obviously, since 1979 when a number of Americans were taken hostage by Iranian militants, our relations had sunk to a new low. Whether or not there's a connection there will probably never be answered.

All over the world and including America weapons of all sizes have proliferated at alarming rates. America has more guns per capita than anyone if you consider our size (Honduras actually has more -one reason extreme violence is causing children to escape to America--but they are tiny compared to the US). Violence by gun use has been trending down over the past few years, but if you look at the type of violence we have, it's mainly caused by easy access to guns. America decided years ago to allow an obscene proliferation of guns to flow so there's really not much we can do about: it's too late for gun control in America. Crime may well be dropping due to greater concealed carry laws, but think about that: did we actually have to ensure that Americans could or should carry or have a gun in order to protect themselves. In other words, America had to actually return to an 1800s mentality and viability of having a gun to protect themselves. Is that considered progress?

America's defense budget dwarfs everybody else. In fact, our budget is bigger than the next 15 countries combined who follow us (check out the 2013 Stockholm International Peace Research Institute study). We arm the world. The trouble is, yesterday's ally can be tomorrow's enemy. When we helped various rebel factions fight the Soviet Union after they invaded Afghanistan in the late 1970s, one of those rebels we (in essence) were fighting along side with was none other than Osama bin laden. Our weapons are now in the hands of ISIS which is grabbing territory and killing people all over Iraq and parts of Syria. We have no choice but to go after this crowd, and when we do-we'll be fighting a force using many of our own arms. We've created some monsters and one can only remember President Eisenhower's warning which came right before he left office in 1961: beware of the military-industrial complex. This is the complex which designs and builds weapons systems and pays (through donations, fear & the promise of jobs) politicians to keep the money flowing. Like gun control in America-it's impossible to stop now.

We can still try and claim the moral high ground. Despite our mistakes and issues we have as the world's number one weapons builder, we should still try and hold back weapons from getting into the hands of obvious maniacs.It's pretty easy to determine who these freaks are, but we have engaged in so much military action over the past decade, we need to find other ways of flexing our muscle through other means than simply sending in our troops. Drones can be effective, but we will kill innocent people that way too. I do think it's too late to control the flow of weapons in a world gone mad. We must continue to try and create a grand coalition of people and countries who want a more peaceful world, but at this time, it seems there are simply too many factions determined to fight-not talk peace. At the end of the day, we must also stay vigilant over the world's nuclear stockpile. How long will it be before someone figures out how to really fit a viable nuke into a smaller container-be it a suitcase or shipping container. Between that over whelming prospect and a more simple threat like the missile that took out the airline recently, we and the world have our work cut out basically forever. It's a bleak concept, but once the weapons genie escaped the bottle, it may be impossible to stop its ever flowing rise and deadly threat.