It's not often you read a book which does just what it says on the cover, but in this excellent little book - based on his years of research and activism in the UK based Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) - Gideon Burrows has succeeded in providing a very useful guide to “the arms trade for beginners”.
Masses of statistical information is threaded through chapters on the countries and corporations which control the arms trade; the impact of arms sales on conflicts, human rights and development; and the bribery, corruption and sheer immorality on which the trade thrives. By the last chapter, as Burrows suggests, readers may be feeling overwhelmed by the scale and pervasiveness of the arms trade, but in showing the progress that anti-arms trade activists have made in exposing, limiting and regulating arms sales and transfers, and in outlining a road map for future campaigning, he also challenges readers to get out of the armchair, and do something with all that information.
The focus on the usual suspects - the US and Britain (first and fourth in the world's suppliers of conventional weapons) - might frustrate some PN readers; although references to other players are there, they are not covered in the same depth. Similarly, specialists on certain countries or on human rights or development may also find Burrows's tightly packed chapters a little reductive, with some errors and inaccuracies which could have been avoided if sources had been checked a little more rigorously (some of the referencing could also be improved, New Internationalist take note). I also found some of the language a little too sensationalist (how many times can you refer to murderous regimes?); but ignore these little cavils - and the completely unnecessary foreword by Yvonne Ridley (a journalist for one of Britain's most right-wing newspapers) - just read the book. And then do something about the arms trade.