Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Asif Efrat's "Governing Guns, Preventing Plunder"

Asif Efrat is Assistant Professor of Government at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya. He received his Ph.D. in government from Harvard University and has taught at Cornell Law School.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Governing Guns, Preventing Plunder: International Cooperation Against Illicit Trade, and reported the following:
Governments worldwide repeatedly promise to abolish human trafficking, eliminate the illegal drug trade, and prevent gun smuggling. Yet in fact, international cooperation against these illicit trades has been very difficult to establish. Their rhetoric notwithstanding, governments have sharply disagreed about the extent of – and even the need for – international action to curb illicit trade. Governing Guns, Preventing Plunder explains – theoretically and empirically – why governments lack a shared interest in combating illicit trade. Contrary to conventional wisdom, it is not criminal influence that primarily accounts for the absence of shared interest. Rather, it is pressure exerted by the legal, legitimate actors involved in illicit trade: from banks that launder money to museums that acquire looted antiquities to farmers employing trafficked migrant workers. Governments influenced by these actors have been reluctant to fight illicit trade; it would often take American pressure to compel their cooperation.

Page 99 concludes the chapter that examines the failed efforts against the illicit trade in small arms. Small arms kill hundreds of thousands of people every year worldwide – more than any other weapon. They are widely used for crime, terrorism, and human rights violations. Yet the international agreement aimed at curbing the illicit arms trade is a very weak one. As the chapter describes, governments protecting the profits of state-owned arms industries had little interest in an effective agreement; so did nondemocratic governments that were anxious to secure their own arms supply. Capturing the book's overall argument, page 99 explains that certain governments identified only costs and no gains from international action against the illicit arms trade; in the absence of shared interest, cooperation failed.

The international efforts against illicit small arms did not benefit from American support, given the political sensitivity of gun control in the United States. Following chapters examine the crucial role of U.S. pressure in motivating governments to tackle drugs, human trafficking, money laundering, and counterfeit goods. Also analyzed is the reversal of the longstanding American policy that had allowed the import of looted antiquities into the country. Absence of shared interest in suppressing illicit trade, the book argues, is a major challenge, but one that may sometimes be overcome.
Learn more about Governing Guns, Preventing Plunder at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue