Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Wanted: US Salesman (aka 'Ambassador') to India

Requirements: Must have a minimum of five years experience selling weapons to poor countries, or the equivalent in political connections.  Candidates who are bilingual (English/Miltary-Industrialinglish) will be given preference. 

Ambassador Roemer: "...an unbeatable
platform at a competative price!"
A few eyebrows were raised last week when US ambassador Timothy Roemer announced his resignation just a day after India said it would not buy 10 billion dollars worth of fighter jets from either of the two American companies competing for the mega-contract. The US denied that the timing was anything but coincidence, but many were not convinced, in part  because it was widely reported that Roemer had linked the future of Indo-US relations to the deal.

I'm not really sure it matters why Ambassador Roemer resigned. What's interesting is the fact that defense deals like this seem to matter to much to American diplomats. Here is Roemer on the deal, via Oneindia.in:
"We are respectful of the procurement process. We are, however, deeply disappointed by this news...I have been personally assured at the highest levels of the Indian government that the procurement process for this aircraft has been and will be transparent and fair...I am extremely confident that the Boeing F/A 18IN and Lockheed-Martin F-16IN would provide the Indian Air Force an unbeatable platform with proven technologies at a competitive price."
Doesn't he sound like a salesman? You'd almost think he's getting a commission on the deal.  Do you ever hear US officials talking about green technology like that? Do they ever push competitively priced water purification plants? 

To be fair, Roemer's prose is not as bizarre-sounding as a real fighter jet sales person. Here's something via The Hindu from a Boeing press release:
“We believe we offered the Indian Air Force a fully compliant and best-value multi-role aircraft for the defined mission. We will continue to look for opportunities to help India modernise its armed services and enhance its aerospace industry."

(This is really serious business, but that little bit of prose is till making me laugh...best-value...multi-role...defined mission..enhance its aerospace industry...can we really call that English? Or is it really better described as a sub-dialect of Bizglish, maybe Military-Industringlish?)

When US President Obama came to visit last November, a large part of what he was doing was selling military hardware to the GOI. In fact, the list of weapons India has recently ordered from the US is very long and has cost us billions of dollars. (For a partial list of recent sales check out the last bit of this article in The Hindu.) 

If you read the papers (and Wikileaks) you realize that the US is not just providing a public service to poor countries that need to protect themselves; they are using all sorts of hard sell tactics to pressure countries into buying American-made killing machines.  Why? Who knows. Maybe they aren't good at making anything else anymore. 

Ever wonder about why Indo-US relations seem so important to both the US and Indian government? Maybe it's got something to do with the fact that the US is the world's leading exporter of arms, and India is the world's leading importer of arms. Hmm.

For me that raises two questions:
1. Why is the US going around the world pushing it's weapons on poor countries?
2. Why are poor countries wasting so much money on killing machines when we are facing all kinds of bigger threats like farmer suicide, climate change, and falling water tables? We don't even have the equipment necessary to rescue workers from burning buildings in the NCR--what right do we have to spend  $10 billion on fighter jets?

It's time we start investing in life. Let's put the merchants of death out of business. 


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