Risky Business: The Role of Arms Sales in U.S. Foreign Policy

Featuring Caroline Dorminey, A. Trevor Thrall, Colby Goodman, & Travis Evans

In Iraq, U.S. soldiers often encounter ISIS fighters armed with American-made weapons. Intentionally sold to the corrupt, poorly-trained, ill-disciplined Iraqi military by previous U.S. administrations, many of these weapons have now fallen into the hands of terrorists. Far from an isolated incident, this example underscores the unintended—and often dangerous—consequences of international arms sales.

The Trump administration has embraced arms sales, and at such a fever pitch that it is difficult to determine which sales will come with serious consequences that risk American lives. To help policymakers evaluate the possible downstream effects of selling weapons to specific countries, Cato scholars Trevor Thrall and Caroline Dorminey have created a comprehensive risk assessment index.