Few American exports are more successful globally than things that go boom in the night: Hollywood movies — especially, of course, superhero films, which regularly garner vast international audiences — and advanced weaponry of just about every imaginable kind. As TomDispatch regular and Pentagon expert William Hartung points out today, while Donald Trump has been hot to trot when it comes to selling American arms to the world, it will take no small push on his part to match Barack Obama’s record arms sales, as our former president oversaw the dispatching of staggering quantities of weaponry to global hotspots of every sort, especially in the Middle East.
Fortunately, there is one area where Donald Trump and American weapons makers could really make some new music: selling surveillance drones as well as armed drones to the world. Reuters recently reported that the Trump administration was planning to loosen restrictions on drone sales in the immediate future. In recent years, U.S. drone makers have labored under grievous restrictions when it came to peddling their wares to anyplace but the Pentagon. They, in fact, sold their products only to Italy and Great Britain, despite demand being, if you’ll excuse the expression, sky high. After all, who wouldn’t want to own the most impressive extrajudicial assassins on the planet?
Nor can this change come soon enough — American drone makers have been pleading and pressuring for it for years — since Israel, a pioneer in the drone-assassin field, and more recently China, have been expanding their armed drone sales globally, leaving American weapons makers in the lurch. As Hartung makes clear today, it’s been rare indeed in the twenty-first century for the U.S. to find itself in such a position. A range of countries — the Saudis, various other Persian Gulf states, Jordan, and India — has been clamoring for their very own American surveillance drones and armed assassins and both, it seems, will soon be on the world market, though not (yet) the larger armed Predators and Reapers that the U.S. has deployed ever more widely and actively across the Greater Middle East and Africa.
Soon enough, thanks to Donald Trump, the U.S. will be back in the game. Meanwhile, from Libya to Somalia to Yemen to Afghanistan to Pakistan, in the first year-plus of the Trump era, American drone strikes have leaped (as have the deaths of civilians). In other words, The Donald has taken his place as this country’s assassin-in-chief with impressive alacrity.