Open printable version
Small Arms Survey 2005
Weapons at War
Oxford (University Press) 2005, pp.342.
The fifth edition of this annual survey contains remarkably well-researched chapters, which challenge some of the accepted paradigms, upon which the programmes of the mainstream international humanitarian aid industry are based. Moreover the rigorous scrutiny of widely diverging figures of death rates in armed conflict not only overcomes the general confusion, but also demonstrates that the fatal consequences of armed conflicts tend to be underestimated with respect to the number of victims as well as the geographical extension, which reaches well beyond the immediate war zones across national borders.
From 2001 to 2003 the vigorously expanding community of advocacy groups enthusiastically awaited the new editions of the Survey to feed their campaigns with new "dramatising" figures. The data provided on worldwide stocks, production and trade, uncritically cited in a broad range of mostly normative academic literature on small arms, filtered into speeches and reports of the SecretaryGeneral of the United Nations. With such high-level certification themethodologically rather dubious compilations of undifferentiated data wererecycled in fundraising pamphlets of the advocacy groups throughout westernindustrialised world. For a time the Small Arms Survey research team fellvictim to its own initial success in the media and topped their data with "newfinds" in successive editions.
Some new thoroughgoingapproaches could already be discerned in the 2004 Survey. This trend to finallyemancipate small arms research from the inappropriate arms control paradigm,which unfortunately structured the first editions, is corroborated by severalsubstantive chapters in the 2005 Survey. Particularly noteworthy are thechapters on the actual use of small arms in conflict, on deaths related tosmall arms and a critical analysis of "post-conflict" scenarios. Also worthmentioning is the thorough attempt to correct one of the weakest points of theearlier editions, namely the data on production. Finally the data is presentedthroughout with particular attention paid to transparency and methodology.
The value ofcumulative research experience is evident in the carefully argued and richlydocumented chapter on "post-conflict" zones, which will provide food forthought for the entire humanitarian aid community, if this hectic group ofactivists cares to take note of this well-argued critique of currentlyprevailing "aid" paradigms. There are, however, still, "legacy" chapters owedto the misplaced arms control paradigm like the one on stockpiles, in which theauthor speculates unproductively among others on the holdings of small arms inNorth Korea on the basis in arithmetic exercises of spurious relevance at best.The belated attempt to fill a lacuna of the previous editions with a chapter onammunition does not live up to the standards set by the chapters referred toabove, because it does not substantially add new information beyond what amongothers the Indian researcher Tara Kartha had presented more than a decade agoduring the early stages of the debate on small arms. Overall though, itappears, the Geneva-based research team is tackling increasingly substantiveissues by applying carefully selected methods in a transparent way. Anyone withcontinued interest in small arms will eagerly await the next edition of thesurvey in 2006.
B: Annotatedexcerpt: In the following pages I share my readingimpressions chapter by chapter for all those who cannot afford to read theentire text. Due to the attention dedicated by the authors to themethodological pitfalls when handling information related to small arms, mostof the texts are not any longer spiced with sometimes hardly relatedjournalistic descriptions, as was the case in earlier editions. The reader musttake his time to appreciate the lines of argument presented in thisthought-provoking collection of articles.
Chapter 1: Rounding out the Gun: Ammunition
Given the factthat ammunition is for guns what gasoline is for cars it was somewhatsurprising that earlier editions of the Small Arms Survey dealt with thissubject only marginally. The chapter provides some basic information, but does not add to the already available body of knowledge (DeClerq, Kartha, GRIP,BASIC and many others). Information is provided on the technical composition ofstandard cartridges and calibres. A graphic compares the regional distributionof global ammunition production and small arms. The British Omega Foundation isgiven as the source of the data. This source is in not in the public domain andthus not amenable to scrutiny by informed scholars. The reviewer finds itunconvincing that the information necessary for such a global table can bereliably collected at all. Neither does the data add to our understanding ofthe economics of ammunition production nor has it any potential to enhancemeasures to control illicit trade and misuse. Academics are regularlyfascinated by craft production and tend to pay over-proportionate attention toit.This chapter is no exception. However, industrial manufacturing is the mainsource of re-supply in armed conflicts, even in the most remote parts of theworld. Cases like the Solomon Islands discussed in chapter 10 of the 2005Survey are not representative. The means of armed violence, including blankweapons, originate with very few exceptions from industrial activities.
The authorenumerates a number of supply restrictions, pertaining to armour piercingammunition in the United States, certain calibres and broader regulations,while the larger 0.5 calibre rounds are freely available. But she fails tohighlight the potential of specific restrictions, if rigorously applied. Atthis advanced stage of the debate one would have expected an exploration of theadvantages and drawbacks of certain measures. The normalisation of calibres andthe exclusive assignment of specific calibres for certain legitimate usergroups would be just one of many potential measures to bring the illicit supplyof ammunition under control.
The text alsoprovides a review of the coverage of ammunition in regional small arms(control) instruments. It briefly reports on the status of marking and tracinginitiatives, which is discussed competently elsewhere (GRIP among others). Onecannot but wonder how many often-patronising handbooks and so-called help desksare in place to inform on best practices in the management and destruction of(ammunition) stockpiles.The chapter also dedicates a few paragraphs to this subject. To conclude thistext is a basic primer at best, it does not address such important issues asthe economy of manufacturing ammunition, the way legal production eventuallyfeeds illicit trade and what it takes to start the industrial manufacture ofammunition.
Chapter 2: Unpacking Production: The Small Arms Industry
In the context of theSmall Arms Survey this is a remarkable chapter because it finally breaks withthe patchwork reports on production and untenable statistics based on anambiguous unhelpful definition of small arms production. In addition thestatistics were not based on open sources, which runs counter to the standardof research ethics other institutions in the field like SIPRI have establishedfor good reasons. The author rightly points out that the definition of SmallArms and Light Weapons (SALW) by an UN-expert group depicted a field of concernand not a unit of analysis.
Departing fromthe observation that "a uniform conception of the small arms industry masks arange of factors that distinguish companies"(p.41), James Bevan, the author ofthe chapter, develops a heuristic scheme of the industrial and craft actorsinvolved in the production of SALW. He puts forward a list of criteria, likeproduct type and variation, production process, market characteristics,specialisation in supplying components to a broad range of other industries aswell etc. whose combination into bundles of properties provides a meaningfuldifferentiation and allows a classification of industries involved in theproduction of SALW. In what can only be a first step Bevan bases hisclassification on a commercial register of industries (Hoover Inc.) coveringthe United States. He proposes a typology of the SALW-production sector comprisingsix categories of companies, namely repairs and sporadic production, componentsand accessories, specialized (in small arms), household name (mainly well-knownbrands of pistols, revolvers, rifles), extensive range (high-tech, massproduction) and high-tech (electronic accessories, guided systems).
Equipped withthese bundles of characteristics he provides a preliminary distribution offirms in the SALW-sector for the United States. This compilation is veryrudimentary; it does not cover the number of employees, turnover, ownershipetc. But it is a fresh start in a direction, which might eventually shedsufficient light on the sector to inform policy makers how to efficiently cutthe links between legal production and illicit circulation. The chapter does not provide an evaluation of the quality of the commercial register used incomparison to other similar, competing industry surveys like Hoppenstedt andmany others. Furthermore, for important producer countries whose weapons cropup in virtually all armed conflicts such information is not available and is not likely to become available in the near future. However, by pursuing this new methodology further and refining it in the course of research certainparameters may emerge, which can eventually be applied in the absence oftransparency in countries like China, Russia, Pakistan and others.
Anti-tankweapons and so-called man-portable air defence systems are discussed in somedetail, revealing the role of large corporations and government-to-governmentsales. Additional research is urgently needed. It would also be important toassess the chances and dangers of "reversed technology" as a means to overcomeproliferation controls and to fully expose government involvement in thissector (ownership, r & d finance, non-market pricing, (export) subsidies)as well as the frequency of new players entering the field at different levelsof technology, from mature technologies to innovative high-tech.
Finally, one canonly hope that the recommendation to focus on problem weapons (and henceproblem production) will finally be heeded by a research community and advocacygroups, which were so far too much fixated on "bean counting" and on diggingfor seemingly embarrassing figures.
Chapter 3: The Count Continues: Stockpiles
This chapterpursues the (small arms) disarmament paradigm and is a legacy of the profile ofthe Small Arms Survey in its earlier editions. "Even NATO's initiative inUkraine, probably the largest envisaged international stockpile reduction todate at 1.5 million arms, appears small in relation to potential globalstocks." (p.76) Given the plausible assumption that the 1.5 million militarysmall arms in the arsenals of the Ukrainian military are "problem" weapons, thecomparison with "global stocks", which comprise the most humble hunting andsport weapons as well as all weapons in safe and legitimate possession, thisstatement has no analytical merit. It is not in line with the findings ofimportant other chapters in the 2005 Survey. Some of the information presentedseems not really relate to small arms, but is probably owed to the China-threatdebate in the United States.
Statedominance is the result of large military establishments.... China, for instance,while in the process of downsizing its armed forces by a planned 20 per cent,continues to field an estimated 2.25 million active personnel. This is incontrast to some 1.43 million in the United States." (p.79)..."China may be arelatively light-armed society, but its enormity appears to conceal arsenals oflarge absolute dimensions." (p.81)
The terminologyof gun ownership used is somewhat confusing. The distinction between civilianand public ownership remains blurred. The author himself describes hisarithmetic of holding in north-east Asia and elsewhere as an "exercise" (p.85)The reader can only wonder as to why the valuable pages of the Survey arefilled with exercises, whose analytical aim (beyond bean counting) the reviewerfails to recognise, if the reduction of misuse is what the Survey is about.
Comparisons ofabsolute holdings for the Middle East (with a political undertone), notmoderated by relative population sizes, are not helpful. The reader alsowonders that a text box on Morocco fails to mention the low-intensity conflictwith the Polisario over territory occupied by Morocco. Finally, any readerengaged in defending human rights in Tunisia will not enjoy the apologeticcharacterisation of this police state in this chapter. "Tunisia appears to beamong the most carefully policed countries on Earth." (p.88)
Chapter 4: Reaching for the Big Picture: An Update on Small Arms Transfers
The author, AnnaKhakee, introduces the reader to the intricacies of the entire body ofavailable statistics, which are related to transfers of small arms. The findingsare useful and give some indication where priorities should be set. Byexploiting UN-trade statistics, the UN arms (trade) register, national policeand custom statistics she is able to confirm that among others Cyprus seems tobe a turntable of international trade and most likely trafficking as well. Onlyvery few countries allow full transparency of their legal trade in small arms.By construing a transparency barometer of nations the Survey apparently intendsto build political pressure in the hope that the many black sheep like Israelwill in the future supply the UN with more complete records of theirinternational trade in small arms. Apart from systematically incomplete datathe most frustrating aspect of the transfer analysis is the inability toisolate "problem weapons" from the large bulk of weapons traded, which isdestined to reach legitimate and mostly safe users.
The knowledgethat all official statistics are professionally scrutinized on an annual basisby the Small Arms Survey for information, which might turn out to be of use toinform the debate about measures to improve the control and effectively reducethe illicit trade, is helpful. The chances are that increasing politicalpressure will lead to better statistics, but the bureaucratic routine mightalso produce unintended contradictions and information, which might contributeto a better understanding of the critical aspects of international trade. Ifexpectations remain modest enough, progress at a snail's pace might be expectedfrom year to year to emerge from this work.
Chapter 5: Looking onto Target: Light Weapon Control Measures
This chapterprovides a comprehensive overview of international measures to control lightweapons, at the universal and regional levels, between groups of states as wellas relating to specific types of weapons. Thus, the reader learns what stateshave pledged to do, while throughout most of the rest of the Survey he isconfronted with the real world, where government regulations have often ratherlimited effects. Not least, because the realm of shadow globalisation rapidlyexpands providing the operational space for illicit transactions.
ShootingGallery: An Introduction to Guns in ContemporaryArt
This insert is awelcome addition to the Survey, which should be repeated in future editions.The selection is certainly stimulating. The reviewer recommends inviting everyyear a different curator for this section.
Chapter 6: Sourcing the Tools of War: Small Arms Supplies to Conflict Zones
In a short textthe author explores the supplies in three pairs of countries affected by armedconflicts. The selection of the case studies aimed at identifying different,though paradigmatic countries. Not surprisingly they display rather disparatepatterns of supply and motives to carry on with an armed confrontation. Asconflicts continue over years the actors develop multiple, often sophisticatedschemes to access arms and become entrenched in spheres shadow globalisation.The case studies identify "ant trade" as an important factor producing a smallbut steady trickle of weapons. Theft, corruption and government stockpiles arean equally important source for combatants. Collier's model of rathermono-causal economic causation of armed conflict is not corroborated. To the contrarypolitical affiliations and loyalties continue to play an important role.
Haiti andColombia have in common that the respective diasporas in the United Statesplayed an important role in facilitating illicit transfers. Mali and Liberiarepresent contrasting cases to the extent that Liberian combatants had accessto external shipments, whereas the conflict parties in Mali had to exploit thelimited internal stockpiles. The situation in Tajikistan and Georgia wasdetermined by huge former Soviet stockpiles, which in the case of Tajikistanwere complemented by external sources (Afghanistan) resulting in a higher deathtoll.
The key lessonfor setting priorities in future research is epitomized in the importantfinding that "(T)he chapter thereby emphasizes that the focus on largeinternational deals needs to be put into perspective." (p.172) The advocacygroups currently focusing energetically on pushing for an arms trade treatyshould heed this admonition based on empirical analysis.
Chapter 7: Violent Exchanges: The Use of Small Arms in Conflict
This chaptertries to link the types of weapons available to armed groups with the goalsespoused by each group. This is yet another welcome attempt to differentiateweapons and groups using them, which will inform policies aiming at reducinglevels of violence. An understanding of the dynamics between weaponavailability and the cohesion of groups of armed combatants based onidentities, which may be strongly felt or be rather spurious, is absolutelyessential for the design of any kind of external intervention. This chapteradds some fresh perspectives to the recurring interpretations of armedconflicts by paying attention to some basic parameters of military action. Thisaspect is all too often neglected and shrouded by the rhetoric of humanitarianpleas. Though the chapter is a primer into this important field, some of thefindings are worth to be taken into account, when strategies of interventionare being debated among external actors.
The authorprovides examples where more lethal (range, calibre, fire rate) weaponsbecoming available during the course of an armed confrontation dramaticallychanged the material damage and increased the number of victims, particularlyamong the civilian population. His conclusion is straightforward:
"Concernsabout general small arms proliferation often overshadow the need to target themost destructive weapons first. Supply-side initiatives should concentrateinitially on weapons with the greatest potential to cause massive and rapidloss of life and infrastructural devastation, such as mortars, RPGs, andgrenade launchers." (p.184)
It is importantto be aware that the need of a nuanced appraisal of the type of weapons issuedalso applies to police forces and paramilitary units. Another point to takeinto account is the logistical capability of armed groups as a parameter of thetype of weapons a group is likely to procure. Given the fact that home-madeguns do not endure prolonged use, it is important to improve the security of localstockpiles of modern weapons. "This focus, however, needs to be qualitative, aswell as quantitative. The kinds of weapons stockpiled are at least as importantas numbers." (p.186)
Diffuse armedviolence, the author argues as prevails in many weakly policed parts of theworld has a latent tendency to foster social polarisation and the formation of(ideology-based) identity groups. With the intensification of the process ofgroup formation small arms are used ever more tactical and the violence is usuallyhighly directed. (p.189) The capacity to deliver a negotiated ceasefire orpeace agreement depends on the internal cohesion of armed groups and as aresult the capability to internally monitor its members. The absence of thiscapability is sometimes part of the intrinsic logic of groups whose agenda ismerely destabilisation (right-wing militias, death squadrons among others).
Finally theauthor draws attention to the attraction of a membership in armed groups byoffering an immediate upward social mobility and the insinuation of invertingthe existing social order to one's own advantage.
The agenda forfuture research implicit in the last paragraph should be taken into account bythe research team of the Survey when defining priorities of their work.
"Finally,attempts to control the use of weapons by an armed group require understandingof its capacity to act in coordination. The ability of commanders to commit topeace processes and DDR programmes is of paramount importance. Fighters thatescape oversight and are only weakly bound to command-and-control structurescan engage in armed violence irrespective of commitments made at higher levels.Their use of weapons to satisfy personal ambitions is a fundamental obstacle toreducing fears of predation, which feature heavily in post-conflict societiesacross the globe." (p.200)
Chapter 8: "Gun Culture" in Kosovo: Questioning the Origins of Conflict
This case studywhose lead author has a background in ethnology superbly highlights theadvantage of integrating scholars from other fields into the discoursesrelating to small arms. Recycled disarmament and arms control specialists aswell as political scientists (international relations) traditionally dominatethese discourses. This pattern reproduces the institutional evolution of theUnited Nations, where the Department of Disarmament protected its role byembracing the small arms issue, while in a separate and parallel process the UNfirearms protocol was successfully negotiated.
Instead ofabstracting the well-informed analysis of the traditional 'gun culture' in thecourse of the tumultuous history of Kosovo during the last 150 years, theimportant findings will be cited in some detail. Western liberal attitudesautomatically relate 'gun cultures' tothe occurrence of violence. Such aconclusion is empirically refuted in this important case study. It shouldcaution policies in other regions where combating 'gun cultures' is givenprominence.
"The currentfeatures of Kosovo's 'gun culture' are strongly linked to the recent war andthe fact that initially isolated militant groups from mainly rural areas wereable to gain legitimacy and momentum in a national and international politicalcontext. These militant groups actively tied their cause to Albanian history ...of which they offered a militant interpretation that would resonate in parts ofthe Kosovo Albanian society, particularly in rural areas. The same historicaland cultural references, however, had been used by other Kosovo Albanianpolitical figures to legitimate phases of pacification and reconciliation. ...Violent opposition to violent ethnic persecution, in other words, was not theinevitable consequence of a culture used to the presence of arms.
This casestudy calls into question the assumption that 'gun cultures' are at the rootsof 'cultures of violence; in other words, communities that are accustomed tothe presence of small arms are not necessarily willing to consider violence asa legitimate means of achieving their goals." (p.223).
A personal note fromthe reviewer being a German: The WW II occupation and the impact of recruitmentof ethnic Albanians into Waffen-SS formations would have been worth mentioningas a factor of deepening the Serb-Kosovo-Albanian political antagonism.
Chapter 9: Behind the Numbers: Small Arms and Conflict Deaths
Christina Wille,the lead author of this chapter, has contributed an important qualifier to thesmall arms discourse. This thorough account of the existing body of knowledgeabout deaths caused by armed conflicts explicates the methodologicalconstraints of the figures in the "market", which are regularly uncriticallyreproduced in political rhetoric, advocacy pamphlets and unfortunately inacademic analyses as well. Hopefully a wide circulation of this chapter willmoderate a new departure in the discussion about the dire consequences of armedconflicts.
Most importantlythe author introduces the distinction between direct and indirect deaths, thelatter often being massively underestimated. At the same time she warns ofpolitically motivated inflated figures of direct deaths aiming at instigatinginternational action. She notes that from the perspective of the small armsdebate the distinction between 'conflict' and 'not-conflict' is problematic andthus introduces a definition of 'collective violence', which largely followsthe World Health Organization.
"Theinstrumental use of armed violence by people who identify themselves as membersof a group - whether this group is transitory or has a more permanent identity- against other group or set of individuals, in order to achieve political,economic or social objectives." (p.232)
The chapterdiscusses the various constraints as well as deliberate strategies to obfuscatethe reality on 'battle ground'. The expectation that meaningful global figurescan be produced on the basis of sound methodologies will remain an illusion forquite some time to come. However, there exist promising estimation techniqueslike violence clustering surveys and estimation of excess mortality, if appliedmore widely more realistic figures will eventually become available. It alreadyemerges from the discussion in this chapter that press reports are inherentlyunreliable and incomplete. "For many conflicts the degree of underreportingexceeds the range of two to four". (p.247)
As a result oflooking at the available data of eight conflicts Christina Wille concludes:"although small arms are an important feature of all of them, their use inrelation to other weapon types is highly variable even within the sameconflict." (p.249) In the course of her argument she highlights a regrettablelacuna in the UN-definition of small arms, namely 'improvised explosivedevices', which play an increasingly important role in armed conflicts,particularly if they are marked by stark asymmetries between the fightingparties. She concludes this section of the chapter, " it seems inappropriate toconstruct a global 'average' of the number or percentage of conflict deathsthat are attributable to small arms." P.249)
With amethodologically careful emphasis of indirect deaths resulting from armedconflict, the chapter sets out to challenge a dominant body of studies inpolitical science in the footsteps of D. Singer's correlates of war, which isbases its comparative statistical analysis among others on figures of directdeaths in armed conflict. The preliminary search for figures of indirect deathspresented for a limited number of conflicts in two tables and a graph clearlypoints to the need to use the sum of direct and indirect deaths as astatistical representation of the impact of armed conflicts rather than directdeaths as is the current statistical practice. This is likely to havefar-reaching consequences for international comparative studies of wars. I anticipatethat most comparative studies of wars based on the old representation will losetheir legitimacy.
The data showssuch a great variation in the ratio of direct and indirect deaths in conflictsthat the currently used quantitative thresholds must be reconsidered in thelight of this more comprehensive representation. More importantly perhapsindirect deaths are often not restricted to a national territory, which furtherinvalidates in many cases the use of nation-states as the analytical categoryor unit of statistical correlations. Incidentally the same applies to economiceffects, which is mostly neglected as well in studies based on correlating national aggregates. In the real world of today the dichotomy "war" and "notwar" tends to be replaced by regions affected by armed conflict. As a resultmany analytical designs based on this dichotomy and widely used in prestigiousstudies, such as Collier's work at the World Bank, will require a revision,once this new statistic is taken into account. If taken note of, this importantchapter will open a wide debate on the appropriateness of a statistic hithertoused.
Chapter 10: Managing "Post-conflict" Zones: DDR and Weapons Reduction
This chapterputs the very concept of "post-conflict" into question. "In fact, in 2004, manyso-called post-conflict environments presented more direct and indirect threatsto civilians than the armed conflicts that preceded them." (p.267)International actors unfailingly respond to peace agreements with easily fundedDDR (disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration) measures. They intend toforestall the pattern identified by Collier and endorsed by the MillenniumProject that during the first five years "post-conflict" scenarios show a highpropensity to revert into armed conflict. The list of publications shows thatthe author, Robert Muggah, has anprobably unrivalled record of field studies in "conflict countries" throughoutthe world, which qualifies him to x-ray DDR-programmes and search forpreliminary answers to the puzzle that these programmes contribute so little,if anything to the creation of a secure environment. In fact, "thepost-conflict environment can witness years of surging rates of violent crimeand inter-personal violence." (p.271) Observing that even if ownership of smallis tightly controlled, "acts of violence are increasingly perpetrated withbladed instruments" (p.271) leads him to conclude that "alarmingly, DDR andweapons reduction continue to substitute for political solutions." (p.268)Muggah rightly argues, "security is the foundation on which all else depends."(p.276)
The text offersa wide range of substantive evidence corroborating his rather critical reviewof what currently dominates the humanitarian and development strategies inresponse to post-conflict scenarios as assumed best practices. "It is commonfor organized urban criminality to rise following a conflict." (p.274) As aresult, "where penalties are neither implemented nor enforced, the propensityfor civilians and former combatants to acquire weapons can increase. Moreover,there is a sense that, partly because of the continued presence of automaticrifles, grenades, and handguns, arming in self-defence becomes normalized."(p.274) DDR, weapon reduction programmes and security sector reform are often not organically integrated and produce contradictions, which put the ultimateaim of security at risk. In particular, "considering the tremendous amount ofenergy invested in advocating for DDR and weapons reduction, surprisinglylittle evidence is available to help determine the effectiveness of suchprogrammes, ..." (p.277) "(T)he number of weapons collected continues to serve asa benchmark of the success of an intervention rather than the extent to whichis has improved security, much less redressed gender imbalance or advancedpoverty reduction." (283) In general, DDR and weapons reduction programmes arestill top-down approaches often reflecting preferences in western societies.They devote "insufficient attention to customary norms and practices." (p.281)And furthermore, they "frequently target the wrong people. Voluntary schemesthat build primarily on rational self-interest and not take into considerationthe local context (such as buy-back programmes without adequate securityguarantees) tend to enjoy only limited success and can do more harm than good."(289)
Another point isworth mentioning, Muggah's observations support the assumption that demand for(illicit) small arms is quite price sensitive, which provides a window ofinterventionist opportunity (active black market intervention for example), theinternational community has left untested so far.
To conclude, allactors currently involved in humanitarian and development programmes in"post-conflict" environments should read this chapter. It should furthermoreserve to direct future research as many of the points touched upon have raisedadditional questions, to which we should find an answer, in order to improvethe quality international programmes in support of "post-conflict" societies.
Chapter 11: The Central African Republic: A case Study of Small Arms andConflict
This meticulousstudy of small arms entering the Central African Republic since decolonisationis so rich in detail that it would be difficult to find a similarly comprehensivecountry study focusing on small arms. It illustrates the countless ways smallarms can enter a country not having production of its own and permeate itssociety. It also draws attention to the pervasive phenomenon of conflictregions where state borders are porous and of little practical relevance ratherthan countries as the exclusive stage of armed conflict.
However, thistype of study runs counter to the concurrent conclusion in several otherchapters that small arms research must prioritise "problem" weapons, traderoutes, and financial networks. For all the investigative diligence this studycan at best be taken on board to produce comprehensive checklist of possibletransfer patterns. A detailed typology might be of use as a checklist when designingresearch strategies for country studies. Unfortunately the author fails toextract from his "total" narrative an operational typology, which would havebeen the only justification to burden the reader of the Survey with thisdetailed narrative.
In many of itschapters the 2005 Survey has finally overcome the straightjacket of the armscontrol paradigm. In doing so it has opened new important fields of research,which will require continued attention in the surveys to come for the nextthree years at least. The reviewer hopes that the elimination of last vestigesof the arms control focus in next year's survey will allow to introduce and totest still more new approaches to the puzzle of how to reduce the threat ofmisused small arms to human security.
By the roadsideof the mainstream debate on small arms, which is dominated by advocacy groupsalways having one eye directed at their fundraising, many innovative proposalswait to be explored, such as normalisation of calibres separating legitimatepublic and private users and owners of guns; charging private gun owners thefull social costs of ownership through among others an obligatory third-partyliability insurance; economic incentives to guard weapons against loss andtheft (recycling deposit to be paid when purchasing a weapon); thepossibilities of personalising weapons through technical design; addingeducation programmes to gun licensing; obligatory certification of transfersand many others. It is obvious that so far little effort was made to includeeconomists into the small arms discourse, though I am convinced that they couldmake substantive contributions.
Taking up aremark of Keith Krause at a meeting after my first assessment of the 2001through 2003 Surveys in 2003 I advocate to look at similarities between carsand the sequence of strategies to reduce the harm inflicted by the use of carsand weapon policies. It might generate fresh ideas, the small arms discourseurgently needs. And there certainly more analogies with other commodities,which wait to be explored, in order to generate new additional strategies toreduce the misuse of small arms as suggests the case of cars.
In terms ofsocial functions and embeddedness cars and arms are to some extent similar.Cars as well as firearms are useful, sometimes indispensable commodities whoseownership can either be private or public, legal or illegal and both are proneto misused either deliberately or accidentally. Strategies to control cars andmake their use safe have shifted over time. Restrictions of usage (drivinglicense), improvements of the technology (brakes, buffer zone etc.),improvements of the environment (road improvements), safety education, shift ofthe full social costs to the user were a priority at different periods. Itwould be a useful exercise to review this history of car safety for aspectsthat are either warn against unwarranted optimism with respect to certainmeasures or can be applied to improve firearms safety and reduce the number offatalities ascribed to the misuse of firearms. The advanced methodologicaldiscourse on the factors influencing fatality rates of car traffic most likelycan provide small arms research with loops of causation involving bothbehavioural and environmental factors, which can usefully be tested for theapplicability in the case of small arms.
Hamburg, September 2005 Peter Lock
 An earlycase of such attention was Darra (2003 Survey) in Pakistan, a city full oftalented blacksmiths with a long tradition in producing a wide range of weaponsbecause owning a gun is a symbol of male adulthood and status in the traditonalsocial order. More importantly, however, this region is virtually soaked inautomatic weapons originally supplied with the collusion of the CIA.
 The ACEHMonitoring Mission is the most recent example of badly conceived armsdestruction activities with a colonial note. A widely circulated press photoshowed two (expensive) international monitors in exquisite overalls and otherprotective gear resembling the outfit of austronauts equipped with two newsophisticated BOSCH (Sly productplacing in the context of UN-Missions?) metal cutting devices in the process ofdestroying two guns. One would expect employment chances for local people andthe application of a less outlandish destruction technology more in line withthe local level of technology.