Arming the insurgencies of the future

Guns are very durable — ownership tends to be transient.

The New York Times examines a weapons cache which provides a snapshot of the arsenal that the Taliban in Marja — the part of Helmand Province that has seen the most sustained fighting of 2010 — have been using against US marines.

In this collection, a third of the weapons are bolt-actions rifles from World War II or earlier.

The photograph above shows a 1915 Lee Enfield rifle — a gun that was manufactured in the millions to defend the British Empire.

Did the manufacturers have the slightest idea that they were making weapons that would outlast an empire?

What does the fact that the US military is now locked in a stalemate against an irregular force with vastly inferior weaponry say about the return American taxpayers are getting from a defense budget that dwarfs all others?

Would the Marines be significantly worse off if they too carried Lee Enfields?

But here’s the serious question:

When Britain was amassing an arsenal to defend its empire, it spent a tiny fraction of what the US now spends producing an array of weapons far less potent than those the Pentagon now requires.

If we assume that, just as was the case for the British, the American arsenal far outlasts the American empire, what kind of world will we see a hundred years from now when America is a shadow of its former self and fighters across the planet are wielding M16 rifles instead of Lee Enfields?

The defense of America leads inexorably to the weaponization of the planet.

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17 thoughts on “Arming the insurgencies of the future

  1. Peter

    This will not happen. The M16 is part of the military-industrial complex and to complicated to use it out of an estabished military hierarchy. It’s not the soldiers weapon, it’s the weapon to control the soldier and to boost the profits of the producers. The weapon of choice is stil and will be the AK 47.

  2. Christopher Hoare

    What … no Martini Henrys? I guess not, smokeless powder has been the most enduring superweapon that ever changed modern warfare. I have no doubt that it will outlast the M16, as well as all the other the multi-million dollar products of the American war industry.

    Would you expect to find an F-35 in a weapons cache in 2110? A Nimitz carrier? Hardly, because only a fool would fight a war with weapons that bankrupts them.

  3. Alex Bell

    What goes around comes around. You will undoubtedly pay for what you have done and what you are doing, and so will the British and Australians, your poodles.

    The tragedy is that many others of your victims will pay for what you have done also, even if they opposed it and struggled against it.

    Regards, Alex

  4. estebanfolsom

    lets give a weapon to everyone
    and see what happens

    what gets me though
    is remote drone strikes

    nothing more than murder
    in the coldest blood

    and you call it war ?

    no my friends
    war is combat

    man to man
    if you must

    it is not this
    not by a long shot

    and if you don’t think
    those drones won’t be

    hovering over our heads
    at one point – sometimes soon


    i’ll see you in hell
    ’cause i let it happen too

  5. Mawgy

    It seems inevitable that war will always be, as we manufacture and sell weapons to anyone who will pay. I think it is true that we also give away some to countries (Israel) that we particularly favor. New star wars weapons are just like “Frankenstein” an incredible invention that will soon become a monster. Wars and weapons are a waste of treasure. Building weapons is senseless unless they are used. When they are used we have wars and must build more weapons, a never ending tragedy for humankind. “When will they ever learn, when will they ever learn”. All the modern Empires declined but seem to be surviving as lesser powers. The USA could stop “pumping iron” and switch to “Tai Chi” it would be better for everybody. Take a deep breath and send peace energy.

  6. David Marchesi

    As already seen in , for example, Sierra Leone recently, the greatest tragedy is the “boy soldier” phenomenon. These guns ( hand guns, rifles) are deadly and, on the whole, easy to use and maintain.As perhaps the only “civilised” country virtually to encourage its citizens to go around shooting each other, or foreigners, if available ( for the best of possible reasons, no doubt…) the USA will see the sins of its fathers etc. The likelihood is that an increased proportion of soldiers engaged in the latest US wars will be traumatised and turn to mayhem or at least individual acts of brutality on their return home- this is what they have been trained to do, after all. It is quite appalling that practically no “moral leader” ( e.g., churchmen) has pointed out the essential dehumanising effect on the military, their families and the wider community of legitimised killing. The new definitions of courage now prevalent ( apparently, drone manipulators in Denver are heroes) or gaining ground in the US bode very ill for our children’s and garndchildren’s sanity. Killing people is wrong, with guns of any vintage, bombs or lethal injection.

  7. BIll Coffin

    Interesting argument, but bollocks.

    The M-16 requires significantly more upkeep and maintenance than the old Lee-Enfields. More to the point, before pointing to U.S. weapons manufacture as a weaponization of the world, one must first wrangle with the impact of cheaply made Kalashnikovs, which outnumber any American armament on the planet by about 10:1.

    Yes, industrial militarization is bad. But your focusing on American impact at the cost of losing perspective on what is a much wider, and much less American problem than your article suggests.

  8. Iroz

    Unfortunately what the author fails to point out is that the reason weapons like the ak and lee enfield are so prevalent is chiefly due to two factors: they are cheap, they are durable. Weapons like the m16, as pointed out by peter, is a weapon designed to be most effectively utilized in a structured hierarchy. It will never be considered the weapon of choice for the citizen soldier because it was not designed to be user friendly. That being said, never in the course of human history has the world been at peace. Conflict, albeit undesirable, will never, can never, affect a populace as to drive them to utter chaos. Even the many thousands of schisms that took place throughout history have shown any degree of aimless aggression. At any rate, contrived notions of world peace and the vicious circle of war fail to acknowledge the one undeniable truth. Man kind is born of the flame, survivalists through and through. Killers forged by necessity, or the illusion of necessity.We kill, because we’re good at it. In fact, we literally have it down to a fucking science. War is an inevitability, that will never change. We must however, learn when to fight, and when to submit. There are things in this world worth fighting for, and things that are not.

  9. Kris

    Really? Go fuck yourself. What do you know about war? What do you know about patrolling 20 miles in the hot ass desert, then getting shot at and losing your best friend to a sniper? Who the fuck are you to judge anyone that serves their country? Talk about war when you experience it first hand, when you bleed, sweat and cry every day because that country is gnawing on you, like a bone. Talk when it eats you away, piece by piece, not knowing if this step is your last, to an IED. Talk when you get blown up, or watch two of your friends lose their lives to an IED. Talk about the war when you fight in it, you sleep and eat in it. Talk when you lose someone close, to it.

  10. Dexter

    I find it amusing that half of the people commenting are demonizing the military-industrial complex in America, while at the same time utilizing the internet, a direct product of military research.

    A concept pioneered by an American computer scientist, developed through a U.S. military agency and made available to the public after 30-some odd years of military and educational use…But, you know, the military-industrial complex is just full of demons and profit mongers and useless wastes of money, hell-bent on destroying the world and supplying underprivileged nations with guns to keep killing one another. Never did a damn good thing in the world (or at least if they have done anything ‘good’, their ‘evils’ have far outweighed the good).

  11. D. Brown

    To Kris,
    You volunteered for the *job* did you not? The people we are fighting are of little threat to the United States. Iran was a joke and everyone should realize that, Afghanistan is the new Vietnam…
    If the terrorists were serious about destroying America you would see infrastructure strikes daily, it only takes a rail saw and 15 minutes to derail a train. A few pounds on Simtek (sp) or even a large pipe bomb made from smokeless gunpowder available at any sporting goods store, especially when coupled with an incendiary air burst device would cause devastating destruction at very little cost or knowledge. These people are using themselves as human bombs in the Mid-East…Why not in America? I know damned well the FBI, CIA or the local police aren’t good enough to stop the terrorists already in America. Why aren’t they setting off bombs in crowded stores on Black Friday, why not in Times Square on New Years Eve? They want to destroy our economy? Why aren’t they even trying? It’s been almost a decade since 9/11… Stop and think for a few seconds rather than simply believing Big Brothers nonsense.
    The last war America *needed* to fight was WW2. Sorry. I do, with all my heart, feel for the killed and crippled American soldiers. Needless losses all.

  12. Ron

    The US citizens the US Government most fears are its own trained ex-servicemen. This is what happens. Live by the sword, die by the sword.

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