The defense industry's 'Islam problem' and the allegiance question

Donald Trump's views on immigration and Islam are not just polarizing public opinion and the media, but also causing waves within the American defense sector.

Defense One reports that “if Trump wins, expect thousands of defense jobs to move to Europe[.] ... The GOP frontrunner's anti-Muslim comments could prompt U.S. allies to shop elsewhere for arms.”

According to Byron Callan, an analyst with research firm Capital Alpha Partners, “President Trump may prove offensive to Islamic states and those countries could seek alternative sources of weapons systems.”

Another defense industry lobbyist was quoted as saying “anti-Muslim rhetoric absolutely does not help when you're trying to sell to the Middle East.”

Anthony Cordesman, a Middle East expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, broadened the issue to other nations for which arms exports are important: “Trump’s nationalistic comments could have ripples beyond the Middle East. ‘Do you really think that Europeans, or Asians, or Latin Americans are going to be any more trusting?’”

Callan raised similar points in his analysis, noting that “Trump has accused Japan and South Korea, both major consumers of U.S. arms, of not paying enough to the U.S. for their security. ‘[T]here could be a backlash that impacts U.S. defense firms. Japan and South Korea might seek to reduce reliance on U.S. defense imports and build their own capabilities.’”

Ideally, Trump’s campaign will lead to a vigorous public debate on the nature of the evolving arms export industry.  While a substantial contributor to the U.S. economy, Trump has expressed concerns over Muslim immigration and massive trade deficits specifically because of the corresponding national security risks.

Consequently, should not the American defense industry – which was built into a global leader by domestic military expenditures, with the sole aim of protecting the homeland against the same threats Trump has identified – hold its allegiance first and foremost to the United States?  Or does the defense industry know something the rest of us do not that would show Trump’s concerns to be unfounded?

A national discussion is needed about whom the defense sector is really working for, where its priorities reside, and to what extent arms industry globalization is threatening American sovereignty.

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