Arms proliferation might be defined as the transfer, sales and/or use of weapons when the number and power of the weapons goes beyond any reasonable legitimate use. There can be little doubt that the driving force of such proliferation is distrust.
Societies that are stuck in "low-trust traps"2 sometimes end up investing ever greater effort and resources in weaponry. Arms proliferation isn't a matter of social scale. Vendettas between two rivalrous mountain villages can feed it. So can distrust between two regional superpowers with nuclear ambitions. Regardless of the social scale, arms proliferation will tend to further erode what little trust might remain.
Not all trade in arms is proliferation. Project Persephone does not advocate that any nation, region or law-abiding individual disarm unilaterally. Rather, it aims to promote social trust where it can, and to proactively help to police any illegal arms trade where it must.
Concretely, Project activities will tend to take the following forms:
- Support for improvements in telecommunications, transportation and legitimate trade between the beneficiary communities of its charitable arm?, and especially in cases where the lack of social trust can mean logistical, economic and institutional barriers to establishing the basis for projectile space launch.
- To the extent that the Project promotes projectile space launch development to nation-states, proactively cooperating in preventing the enabling technologies from falling into the hands of organizations (state and non-state actors) who would use them to threaten noncombatants or legitimate governments.3
Since the prospects for projectile space launch remain uncertain and long-term at best, small arms are the main focus. Since the Project does not aim for police powers, the economic dimension of the Project's efforts is key.
To a great extent, small arms proliferation is a function of an ever-expanding global trade in illegal drugs. Equatorial alpine regions, because they are remote, underdeveloped, often out of reach of (sometimes failed) states, and in some cases offer superior growing conditions, host much of the world's cultivation of coca, cannabis, and opium poppies. This makes them particularly anarchic sources of demand for small arms. In some cases, the attempts by drug enforcement agencies to limit growing acreage by aerial defoliation only makes the arms proliferation problems worse. For example, the larger organized groups, which are already equipped with aircraft for rapid transport of drugs and arms, try to acquire anti-aircraft weaponry.
Another major factor in small arms proliferation is organizations that have revolutionary or separatist ambitions. In some cases, the drug trade enters in these cases as well, as a source of financing. In such cases, the Project can do little except by default. The benefits of its charitable programs simply cannot extend directly into regions not answerable to recognized, legitimate national governments. (Emergency medical responses that are closely coordinated with law enforcement agencies and/or international relief organizations might be one possible exception.)
At best, by improving the economies and the health care available in problematic regions, the Project can help provide refuge for noncombatants. Such palliative efforts can lay a foundation for increased trust in the noncombatants' places of origin, should they ever return to their communities. They can also provide refuge for combatants willing to lay down arms under conditions acceptable to authorities, and provide some health services to the wounded, perhaps including counseling for child soldiers and others bearing the psychological wounds from being illegitimately pressed into militias, and into combat.
Project Persephone, by offering alternative livelihoods and a healthier life for inhabitants of violence-plagued regions, can give some of these inhabitants a way out of a system that reduces generalized social trust and increases the incentives to invest in small arms, whether for criminal depredation or for legitimate self-defense.
1 From the Chance for Peace speech (AKA "Cross of Iron" speech) by Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953. For context, see http://www.usnews.com/opinion/blogs/robert-schlesinger/2011/09/30/the-origins-of-that-eisenhower-every-gun-that-is-made-quote ⇑
2 See e.g., Growiec, Katarzyna and Growiec, Jakub (2009): "Social Capital, Trust, and Multiple Equilibria in Economic Performance" (PDF), Dec 2009, Institute for Structural Research, Warsaw, Poland ⇑
3 For example, since even projectile launch will require some rocket propulsion to circularize orbits, it's within scope of the Project agenda to promote cooperation in the Missile Technology Control Regime for candidate nations in equatorial alpine regions. The need is clear. Indonesia?'s cooperation with Russia and Ukraine on air-launch out of Biak Island is stalled on the issue of MTCR compliance -- see Maulia, Erwida (Feb 15, 2012), "Russia repeats offer to RI to become a 'space nation'", The Jakarta Post (Jakarta, Indonesia), Feb 15, 2012. ⇑
- "Commercial Satellite Sector Sees Upside to New Space Policy Hopeful of ITAR Reform, Greater Stake in U.S. Roadmap for Space" http://www.parabolicarc.com/2011/01/17/satellite-sector-encouraged-obamas-approach-itar-commercial-procurement, Satellite Today, Jan 17, 2011
- "U.S. Lifts Export Restrictions on ISRO, DRDO" http://www.deccanherald.com/content/131912/us-removes-isro-drdo-export.html, 25 Jan 2011
- "A Scourge of Small Arms" Jeffrey Boutwell and Michael T. Klare, Scientific American, 2000 http://scholar.googleusercontent.com/scholar?q=cache:c3oabDGwlqsJ:scholar.google.com/&hl=en&as_sdt=0,5