What the global flow of guns tells us about how states fail

Pratap Bhanu Mehta in The Indian Express:

There is an old adage that if you want to understand state building or state breakdown, follow the guns. In conflict zones like Afghanistan, it is all too easy to take recourse to debates over development and culture, while ignoring the dynamics of armed conflict, and the presence of weaponry that militarises society and embeds violence. Even a casual perusal of databases at Small Arms Survey, Geneva, that tracks violent conflict and the proliferation of arms, brings home some basic facts about state building and violence.

In their last year of comparative data base 2018, Afghanistan has a rate of 59.8 violent deaths per 1,00,000, below other conflict zones like Syria (187.9), and El Salvador (87). But this data base is also a reminder of two other large trends. First, violence tends to be sticky. Once embedded, it is hard to dislodge. South Africa has a rate of 40.6; Brazil 36.3. Most countries with relatively lower rates are in Asia, or are European social democracies. In Asia, India has a violent death rate of 3.9 per 1,00,000; Pakistan is at 5.9 while big countries like Indonesia, China and Japan are lower than 1. This contrast between Asia and the Americas on this aspect of state building and prevalence of violent death is striking, and rarely made as central to the development literature as poverty.

More here.