The literature linking the international arms trade, the global arms industry and major human rights abuses, is already voluptuous. Despite this however, many critical questions remain largely disordered or dissonant. As a cut-and-dry engagement with a topic that looms large as big and deadly business that does not bode well for international peace and security, The International Arms Trade: War and Conflict in the Modern World, should be viewed as Rachel Stohl and Suzette Grillot's comprehensive address to understanding the complexities and realities of the weapons trade that offers conclusions for controlling the international conventional arms trade. The International Arms Trade stands out in its treatment of the subject matter by deploying a historical and conceptual context on the trade of conventional ordnance. It highlights the roles of the five largest arms exporters (states) in the contemporary world namely: the United States (US), United Kingdom (UK), France, Russia and China. Stohl and Grillot also evaluate elements of the relationship of these international actors with respect to both the ebb and flow conventional weapons on the international market. As a supplementary theoretical imperative, the authors identify and utilise the five largest arms recipients as part of their examination.
Stohl and Grillot draw five main conclusions about the nature of the arms trade. First, they examine supply and demand for weapons within both a legal and illegal framework, placing them within the larger context of world crises over the course of history. They underscore the fact that sales fluctuate in accordance with the emergence and resolution of international conflict. One of the main objectives of this study is to illustrate in what way conventional arms sales are influenced. Second, this work discusses why the control of conventional arms is more problematic than the trade of unconventional weapons including those of a nuclear, biological, and chemical nature. Consideration is given to Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations (UN) as a means of posing challenges for the regulation of conventional weapons. Third, the profitability of conventional weapons makes this a highly sought after industry, however the $60 billion (USD) worth of conventional arms transfer agreements in 2007 account for only the legal side of the ledger. With significant profits involved in this industry, Stohl and Grillot incorporate the influence that conventional weapons transfer agreements have on national and global economies into their examination. Fourth, the authors direct readers' attention to the fact that national security has traditionally assumed a more prominent position than has human security in the context of arms deals. Therefore, the conclusion is made that the arms trade not only creates situations that results in violence, but also heightens the challenge facing peacekeepers which attempt to mitigate conflicts. Fifth, one of the most pernicious challenges in dealing with the international trade in conventional arms is that controls are wholly underdeveloped and remain largely inadequate to combat industry derivatives.
Stohl and Grillot have arranged the book in an appropriate order as to assist readers' understanding of various levels and aspects of the international arms trade from addressing historical changes in the industry to its ultimate consequence. They draw heavily on news sources, as well as international organisations such as the UN and other non-governmental agencies. Author interviews and various governmental data have also been incorporated into their analysis. In spite of the broad range of research conducted for the formulation of this work, the authors acknowledge that essential data limitations are to be taken into account. Limitations in this field of scholarly inquiry are evident; especially given the nature of actors involved in the purchase and distribution of conventional arms. It is obvious that certain analyses of the arms trade are incomplete insomuch as the lack of transparency and democracy of many agents involved allow for such limitation. Accordingly, there exists a gap in research data and conclusions. However, to supplement the aforementioned sources of information, Stohl and Grillot rely on modern scholarship and parallel situations in the context of arms transfer to alleviate presumptions regarding particular facets of the industry.
Several issues are obviously disenchanting when removed from the context of socio-psychological assumption, but the impact of the arms trade on issues of human rights, including abuses of rights and freedoms, the decay of social structures, humanitarian assistance, education infrastructure, development of cultures of violence, and the impact on communal integration, is not afforded adequate focus on the authors' overall examination. Rather, Stohl and Grillot consider more equitably issues related to national security as well as those of terrorism, and the terrorist procurement of weaponry. Treaty efforts regarding the spread of arms takes a more prominent role in this study, with considerable effort being made by the authors to address contemporary arms trade controls and current international arms control efforts. Their focus in this regard ranges from an examination of the UN Register of Conventional Arms, to the UN focus on small arms and light weapons. For example, tangible results are posed from the 2001 United Nations Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (PoA). Findings are also made available by assessing the adoption in December 2005 of the International Instrument to Enable States to Identify and Trace, in a Timely and Reliable Manner, Illicit Small Arms and Light Weapons, which is supplemented with an examination of such efforts as the creation of a Group of Government Experts in order to address, according the Stohl and Grillot, the prevention and eradication of illicit brokering of small arms and light weapons in December 2005. With their focus on these and other treaties such as the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), and the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA), the authors address both special agreements as well as efforts of a wide range of organisations and institutions. These include in particular the Organisation of American States (OAS), European Union (EU), Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and other actors such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the South Eastern and Eastern Europe Cleaninghouse for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SEESAC).
In addressing the latest initiatives to combat the proliferation of conventional small arms, no such account of anachronistic characteristics can safely be made of the overall study. In spite of the relatively limited length of their analysis, Stohl and Grillot avoid diluting their work with any sort of wayward rumination. Theirs is a direct and focused study that addresses the fundamental essence of the international transfer of conventional arms in the contemporary world. This end is achieved successfully without any subjective preconception of the impact that arms trade has on a national and global scale. Although some of Stohl and Grillot's accounts lack clarity, more often than not, their information is thorough, coherent and enlightening. Amongst some of the most beneficial material to students and professors alike is the historical perspective on the international arms trade. It is evident that both authors are well versed in the language and nuance of the industry, although they fail to deliver an adequate measure of exploration into the more socio-anthropological impact of global conventional arms transfer.
In spite of the fact that there is certainly room for this work in the bevy of literature on this subject matter, The International Arms Trade presents itself as a refreshing, forthwith analysis of critical facets of the industry, void of supposition and fanciful interpretation. It emphasizes pros and cons and demonstrates a linear representation of the arms trade as well as the impact of conventional weapons in various modes and on multiple levels. There is no doubt that this study will edify the intellectual horizons of its readers.