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On the Ethics of Gunrunning/Arms Trafficking

Arnox

Master
Staff member
Founder
Messages
5,315
Before we can talk about the large and heady topic of illicit arms transportation and sales, we first need to contains ourselves heavily, at least at first, to a much smaller and more simple issue, and work our way up from there. So, to start things off, let's begin with an extremely talented book author. They've very clearly made some full racist-as-hell KKK-touting comments online in past, but they've committed no other crimes whatsoever. They just put out some terrible takes. Alright. So, after learning this, do you still buy their books or not? Some would say, obviously no. But before we immediately hit the boycott button, let's turn our attentions for a minute to something else.

(By the way, no, this article isn't going to go the way you're probably thinking it will right now, so it is important that you stay with me here to the end.)

When anyone is born, they, of course, go through a cycle of learning and growth. As they grow up, they may pick up particular unsavory views, whether given to them socially, or demonstrated to them by circumstance. They will learn these. They will make big mistakes. They will say things they shouldn't have. Every single person is a victim to this because we, as humans, are not perfect. We will make mistakes and may believe faulty information or logic. Ok, but how do we defeat this? And furthermore, because we've made mistakes and done or said or believed things we shouldn't have, does that mean we should be forever condemned and shunned? I certainly don't think so. Or at least, all the way up to a point. But I might have given away the ending already with that.

Let us continue though with our example. So we have our person here. They've made mistakes. They've said some bad stuff. But they can rise above that if they are both willing to learn and grow past their mistakes AND if we, as a very general group, are willing to forgive and help them through it. But of course, others in that general group will also have made big mistakes. Should we shun them and stop them from contributing to our betterment as a species and as a civilization? No. Or else nobody would be able to contribute. If we start walling off whole populations, then how much improvement and power and progress would we have taken away from ourselves as a consequence? Instead, we separate the good from the bad. We leave the bad, and take only the good.

Now let's come back to our first issue of the racist author. What do we do? I propose that one should still buy their books. Again, we should be separating the good from the bad. We can buy and enjoy the books, and we don't have to accept their racist views. "But that's money that could possibly be going to racist causes," you say. Yes, that could very well be the case. But if an employer is giving you money for a job, are they agreeing to all your political views and habits as well? Should all employers socially screen every single employee in their roster for anything bad in their past whatsoever? If you say yes to that, then you want a dystopian society where freedom of speech does not exist, and the individual is subject to an all-powerful governing body that decides exactly what everyone should do, say, and think, and quarantine camps or death is given to those who, in any way, do not fit into these strict molds.

If you think that's too far, well, yes it is, but a dystopian society is also the only logical conclusion when someone says that certain statements and attitudes are not acceptable and people should suffer in almost every way because of them. Thus, there must be lines. And those lines can't start simply with, "I disagree with your political views."

Ok. NOW we've finally graduated into arms trafficking. But then, when we try to apply our example of the racist author to the Lord of War gunrunner who sells to the most despicable people ever born on planet Earth, our former logic quickly falls apart. To allow these people to continue providing arms to others so utterly broken and black of soul seems to make every sense of one's morality scream in anger and protest. No. This is not correct. This is not right. This is not acceptable.

But why? And don't say, "Because it just is." That's a child's answer, and I'm firm believer that all good morality can be coldly justified by logic as well as pure emotion. So... What is the reason? Well, the answer lies in the simple fact that there must be basic rules in any group, any society, that are never ever crossed for any reason. Wrong words can be said and later corrected. Money returned. Relationships mended. Lessons learned. But there are some acts committed by humanity that are so clearly evidently despicable and unacceptable for a vast array of reasons, that a line must be drawn.

It is not, per se, wrong that the gunrunner is specifically selling arms to a banana republic despot. No, instead, it is wrong that the gunrunner is even doing ANY business with such people at ALL. Even if the gunrunner was, instead, actually just selling sports cars and wooden tables to the despot, it would still be wrong and unacceptable. The line must be drawn. And that is why illegal arms trafficking is so often morally black, no matter how one might try to justify it and look past it and say that it's morally grey. There are some crimes against humanity where, it seems, the metaphorical blood spilled rises and begins to stick onto any person that chooses to associate or even just do business with such people, if they can even be called people at this point.

Funnily enough, this all can also be linked to the reason why Sanctuary has rules at all. There must be a line. At least very basic rules that everyone agrees to follow. It cannot be a free for all. For when you say everything is permitted, everything truly is permitted, including actions which objectively do nothing more than drag us all down as a species.
 

Vendor-Lazarus

Arch Disciple
Sanctuary legend
Messages
950
I disagree about gun-running being morally black. I expected you to bring up a gun-runner selling guns to Freedom Fighters, fighting an evil oppressive Tyranny. That's morally white-ish. But a gun-runner selling guns to Rebels fighting a corrupt People's Democracy is morally grey. Gun-runners selling guns to Terrorists fighting to establish an oppressive regime is morally black. There's more to this issue than just declaring gun-running bad. Saying it's bad because you can only imagine a single point of view is kid's answer.
 

Arnox

Master
Staff member
Founder
Messages
5,315
I disagree about gun-running being morally black. I expected you to bring up a gun-runner selling guns to Freedom Fighters, fighting an evil oppressive Tyranny. That's morally white-ish. But a gun-runner selling guns to Rebels fighting a corrupt People's Democracy is morally grey. Gun-runners selling guns to Terrorists fighting to establish an oppressive regime is morally black. There's more to this issue than just declaring gun-running bad. Saying it's bad because you can only imagine a single point of view is kid's answer.
Perhaps I should clarify this statement more:

And that is why illegal arms trafficking is so often morally black, no matter how one might try to justify it and look past it and say that it's morally grey.
Chances are, if a country has an arms embargo on it, the current government actually is doing really fucked up stuff, hence why I made the statement I did about illegal arms trafficking being morally black so often, although I do agree that I probably should have worded it more clearly. If the arms trafficker is making sure that their clients are not committing atrocities, then the morality of the arms trafficking is, as you say, much more grey, bordering on white.
 

JamesTaiclet

Outlander
Messages
19
Specialization
Engineering Sector
I am going to drop my dumb bit here to talk about this. As a topic I actually have some experience in (although minor), I've had a lot of time to think about this.

Small arms import/export is a pretty strange industry in itself. A lot of people view the act itself as morally reprehensible, regardless of who the small arms are being bought from or sold to. I will address this first. Generally, in small arms the people who act as your customers are your friends. Realistically you can't be in this industry without any friends. They generally live in the state that you are dealing with on a regular basis, have better visibility on that state's contract opportunity's, and can even tip you off to good opportunities. Without having friends in the industry, you are essentially dead in the water. You are never going to be able to find a market in which your goods are significantly overvalued (this might seem crass, but at the end of the day your goal is to bring product to a market where they have more value, it is trading after all). This is where the complication fits in.

If you have a friend in the industry that can tip you off to these sorts of things, there is a good chance that this individual is very closely connected, if not actively employed, by the client government. What this means in effect is that your failure to supply a client with a product can mean that your friends do not have the small arms, ammunition, body armor, or medical equipment needed to be an effective fighting force. This is inherently what drives demand for these goods in the first place. Unless you want your friends dead, you are going to do a damn good job at supplying your client. They are going to have the best gear you can supply them, and they are sure as hell paying a good price to get it fast.

Whenever I see cases of people illicitly dealing with sanctioned countries, it is always a case of having a "bad friendship." I am not necessarily saying that the trader in question had friends that were explicitly bad people, there is likely a good reason they were friends in the first place. Instead, the trader made friends in a country that was heavily restricted, or more commonly became restricted over time, and is subtly, sometimes even unknowingly, drawn into violating ITAR export controls. Its a sad case that I personally think is much more gray than people would assume.
 
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