Book Review - Challenging Conventional Wisdom - Debunking the Myths and Exposing the Risks of Arms Exports Reform

Originally Published in the Journal of Peace Research

Special Issue on the Duration and Termination of Civil War

Vol. 41, No. 3, May 2004:

Book Notes

Gabelnick, Tamar and Rachel Stohl, 2003. Challenging Conventional Wisdom - Debunking the Myths and Exposing the Risks of Arms Exports Reform. Washington, DC: Center for Defense Information & Federation of American Scientists. 223 pp. ISBN 1932019219

This volume challenges the current call by reformers in the United States to further dismantle most of the provisions governing the export of weapons. The reformers, consisting mostly of industry representatives and their political allies (the Defense Science Board, for example), have had some success in pressing their agenda, arguing that current provisions hurt the US arms industry, undermine the national industrial base, and weaken the ability to produce high-technology goods. The volume's editors and authors take a very broad approach, address each of the reformers' claims, and discuss alternative reforms. Their emphasis is on the inadequate attention reformers have given weapons proliferation. The book's conclusion recommends a careful consideration of export reform within the context of enhancing US security. The text itself consists of ten complementary essays, covering such topics as arms exports subsidization, interoperability, the arms for influence hypothesis, the arms race-war link, the role of Congress, and a range of other arms control proposals. The contributors are authoritative and write from perspectives ranging from think-tanks to academia, and with a strong public policy perspective from within the defense, state and congressional bureaucracy. The book addresses a very narrow public policy issue with great depth, sensitivity, and integration, and it makes its case. It is a necessary read for anyone interested in weapons proliferation, because the detail with which it approaches export control reforms is a model for identifying other processes that conspire against the containment of weapons exports. The book's procedural detail makes it a must for the policymaker and journalist, and its comprehensiveness makes it valuable for the political scientist.

Julian Schofield

Copyright SAGE Publications