Lords of War: Exploring The Reasons and Morals for The United States’ Global Military Presence.

“In the midst of chaos, there is also oppertunity.”

– Sun Tzu, The Art Of War

The United States and war are two terms that have become almost synonymous. It seems that the United States has played a role in every major conflict within the last century, from direct military intervention to selling arms to both sides. But when these actions have world wide ramifcations, the motivies of these decisions need to be investigated and possibly challenged. 

Project Overview

After cementing itself as a global military superpower post World War II, the United States began its mission to support any country sharing its values or interests. And as celebrations of peace between nations evolved into fear of one another during the Cold War, the United States sought to destroy it’s one true enemy by any means necessary: Communism. This nearly half a century conquest brought an untold amount of destruction and established the power of the United States’ Defense industry, an industry that continues to thrive today. In this site, we are going to explore the specific reasoning behind the United States’ untamed thirst for military involvement throughout the Cold War, and the morality of our current stance on arms sales, and how it affects us.

A visualization of the largest military spenders in 2018. Source: Stockholm Internation Peace Research Institue

Personal Interest

When I was younger, I would always watch the nightly news with my Mom as she made dinner. And every night, I would always hear about how the United States is involved in so many military conflicts globally, but never understood why. This project was a great way for me to really dive into this topic I have always been curious about, and explore the motives behind our military intervention globally, and how our arms trade affect nations to a degree I would never have imagined. Full Personal Interest Essay

Fighting Fire With Fire: The Impact of the United States’ Past And Present Global Military Doctrine

The United States was born from war. Early colonial Americans fought tooth and nail against their British oppressors, as the British were deemed to be a greater threat to the Colonists’ well being than the almost certain peril they would face fighting them. This mentality of fighting for what you believe in carried over into and throughout the twentieth century, as the United States partook in countless military operations worldwide, with the uniting goal of eliminating Communism. The culmination of the U.S.’s war on Communism was arguably the Vietnam War, which did recieve intial support, resulted in a horrendous ammount of lives lost, and global backlash against the United States. You can read more about the historical aspect of my issue here.

A map of every coutnry the United States has invaded since 1776. (Source: Vesey-Bryne)

Nowadays, the United States mainly spreads its presence via the Arms Trade industry. Out of the top 20 largest Defense contractors worldwide, the United States holds 12 of those spots, including all top 3 spots. In 2017 the largest Defense contractor in the world, Maryland based Lockheed Martin, secured more than $35 Billion in arms sales with the U.S. government alone, which is more than the budgets of the Internal Revenue Service and Environmental Protection Agency combined (Stebbins, Comen). The United States has always sold its arms to its allies but has been continually selling these U.S. made arms to countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, both of which have been well documented in reselling these arms to terrorist and radical extremist groups (Elbagir, Abdelaziz, Abo El Gheit, Smith-Spark).

Saudi Arabia and The United Arab Emirates reign as the two largest importers of U.S. arms, with a combined importation of an estimated 13,792,000,000 weapons of varying categories from the United States from 2016-2019 (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute). Past presidential administrations have tried to limit arms sales to certain countries keeping in mind their human rights records, but the current administration has rushed to approve millions upon millions of dollars of arms shipments to the at-risk countries (Caverley, Vittori). You can read more about the present-day issue along with more an in-depth solution hereCurrent Problem/Solution Essay

President Trump signing a $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia (Source: Al Jazeera)

What Can We Do?

While it may seem that this issue is so large that a single person could not make an impact, there are actually many things an individual can do on a micro level.

The biggest action an individual can take is simply being informed. Stay up to date on current events, and what wars the United States is involved in and/or supports. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute catalogs and records the importation and exportation of weapons from and to each country with easy to use search features, so you can see for yourself which countries the United States is selling arms to and who is importing the most weapons from the U.S. The next step is to vote. Research the candidates, review each candidate’s policies regarding arms sales, and vote accordingly.


On a more macro level however, I believe that the best course of action in changing the way the United States engages in arms sales with countries who have been proven to be a risk, is to become a politican youself. You could make your voice heard directly, and even affect international arms sales practices with legislation that you could write. With this issue being a core part of how our country opperates internationally, having your voice in congress would be the best way to have large scale change.

Feedback And Your Thoughts

I am curious to see what you guys think of the information presented above, and what you think of my proposed action/solution. 

Please let me know in the comments below if:

  • You were aware of who the United States was selling arms too
  • If there was anything unclear either in my website or my essays (so I can correct it)
  • If you have taken any action against U.S. Arms shipments either before or after reading any of this information

Thank you all again for taking the time to read through my website and essay!

This page was made from a project done for the 2020 Catalyst Conference by Michael at the Head Royce School in Oakland, CA. 


Source: here

Share this project
  1. April 23, 2020 by Daniel

    This turned out great Michael. I was aware of who the United States was selling arms too. However, a lot of the statistics you shared were mind-blowing. The formatting of the website is great. There is a good balance of images and text. The only thing I would recommend is to add more macro solutions that more people could help participate in. Your individual solutions were great and I will definitely try to stay more informed on this topic. Great work!

  2. April 24, 2020 by Carl Thiermann

    Michael–This was informative and thought-provoking—of course, I knew we had a large military budget and an arms industry but I didn’t know, for example, that Lockheed Martin sold $35 billion of armaments. That’s a staggering statistic. I enjoyed your intro, friendly tone, nice backdrop, and personal history. Your research leads me to question our national priorities—there are so many other creative ways to spend the military budget dollars that would benefit our world and your future.

  3. April 24, 2020 by Jena Thorne

    I agree with the previous two comments! You have an incredibly compelling page (that is also aesthetically very pleasing :), and the images that you have presented are particularly captivating.

  4. April 24, 2020 by Peter

    This was very informative. I was aware of who the US was selling arms to, but I had no idea of the scale. 13 billion weapons is a staggering number. The formatting was good and easy to follow, and the images were very engaging. I would agree with earlier comments that more Macro solutions might be warranted, but well done overall

  5. April 26, 2020 by Ashlin Carlisl

    This was very informative and interesting to see. Although I knew many of the general facts, the specific details were mind-boggling. Your project opened my eyes to this situation and I like how you wrote down ways that people can help.

  6. April 28, 2020 by Richard

    This is a very impressive page to see. I especially like how you show those numbers with visualized evidence, which is a clear way to tell us the necessary information. The details you provide on the page are also thought-provoking and mind-blowing!

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