Arms proliferation might be defined as the spread of weapons when their number and power go beyond any reasonable use. Distrust is one of the larger forces behind it.
Societies that are stuck in "low-trust traps"2 sometimes end up investing ever greater effort and resources into weaponry. Arms proliferation isn't a matter of social scale. Vendettas between two rival mountain villages can feed it. So can distrust between two regional superpowers with nuclear ambitions. Regardless of the scale, arms proliferation tends to 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 illegal arms trade where it must.
Concretely, Project activities will tend to take the following forms:
- Help improve telecommunications, transportation and legitimate trade between the beneficiary communities of its charitable arm?. This will be especially important wherever a lack of social trust poses logistical, economic and institutional barriers to establishing projectile space launch.
- Where we promote projectile space launch development to nation-states, proactively cooperate to prevent the enabling technologies from falling into the hands of any 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 near-term 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 illicit drugs. Equatorial alpine regions are remote, poor, often out of reach of (sometimes failed) states, and often better places to grow drug crops. They host much of the world's farming of coca, cannabis, and poppies. This makes them anarchic sources of demand for small arms. In some cases, where drug enforcement agencies try to limit acreage by aerial defoliation, the response of locals and gangs only whets appetites for arms. For example, the larger organized groups, who already use aircraft for transport of drugs and arms, try to acquire anti-aircraft guns.
Another major factor in small arms proliferation is organizations that have revolutionary or separatist ambitions. The drug trade enters in some of these cases as well, as a source of financing. Here, the Project can do little except by default. The benefits of its charitable programs simply cannot extend directly into regions that don't answer to recognized governments. (One possible exception: emergency medical responses that are closely coordinated with law enforcement agencies and/or international relief organizations.)
At best, by improving the economies and the health care in problem zones, the Project can help provide refuge for noncombatants. Such palliative efforts can help 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 any outlaw forces who are willing to lay down arms under terms the authorities can accept. The Project could provide some health services to the wounded as well, perhaps including counseling for child soldiers and others bearing the psychological wounds from being pressed into militias and into combat.
Project Persephone, by offering better choices of livelihoods and a healthier life for those who live in violence-plagued regions, can give some of these people a way out of a system that reduces generalized social trust and that increases the desire 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