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  • In Pursuit of Arms Trade Treaty, Slogans Substitute for Sanity

    Amnesty International has a new slogan designed to drum up support for the U.N.’s Arms Trade Treaty: it’s calling on its supporters to demand a “bullet-proof” treaty.

    That’s cute. Unfortunately, what’s cute is not necessarily good policy, as Amnesty’s slogan illustrates all too clearly. It explicitly demands a treaty that “control[s] all arms and ammunition and their parts.” Leaving aside any Second Amendment considerations, this is insane. Controlling the “parts” of “all arms,” ranging from bullets to battleships, would mean controlling every substantial part and industrial process in the world. A treaty of this scope could never be enforced and would be utterly meaningless in practice.

    The evidence for this is all around us. In 1997, the Mine Ban Treaty, commonly known as the Ottawa Treaty, was opened for signature. The U.S. has not ratified it, but many other countries have. Compared to the proposed Arms Trade Treaty, the Ottawa Treaty covers a limited, even a tiny, selection of munitions. If it cannot be enforced, there is no chance at all that the Arms Trade Treaty will work.

    So has the Ottawa Treaty stopped the use of land mines? No, it has not. In March, the International Committee of the Red Cross condemned the Taliban for using mines – we call them IEDs – in southern Afghanistan. As the Red Cross put it, “Any use of these weapons, which are prohibited in the country under the Mine Ban Convention just as they are in 155 other countries, is completely unacceptable.”

    All credit to the Red Cross for condemning the Taliban. But it is obvious that the Treaty has only worked to stop law-abiding countries from using mines. It’s done nothing to stop their use by entities that don’t care what the Treaty says. The same problem comes up again and again. U.N. Security Council Resolution 1373, passed unanimously on September 28, 2001, in the wake of 9/11, requires all U.N. members to take wide-ranging actions against terrorism, including “eliminating the supply of weapons to terrorists.” But that does nothing to stop Venezuela from supplying the FARC, or Iran from supplying Hezbollah and Hamas.

    The real problem is not that the international arms trade is not controlled. The problem is that there are too many governments in the world that do not enforce the existing controls. The response to this on the left is never to focus on enforcement. Instead, their call is always for more supranationalism, more treaties, more laws, and more regulations. We see this even at home, as the Gulf oil spill illustrates. The problem, at home and abroad, is not a bad legal framework. The problem is that governments don’t do their job, and then use their failure to demand even more power and to establish even bigger bureaucracies. As Einstein said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

    Posted in International [slideshow_deploy]

    8 Responses to In Pursuit of Arms Trade Treaty, Slogans Substitute for Sanity

    1. Simon says:

      Criticizing the Mine Ban Convention because the Taliban don't abide by it is a poor argument. Of course they won't abide by it, they didn't sign it. The important thing though is that it lays out common principles for law-abiding states. To judge the success or failure of the Ottawa treaty you should look at whether signatories have produced or used mines since signing it.

      The ATT is not the panacea for all our woes as a world. You're right there. But by making common standards of what currently is a patchwork of regulation between different national, sub-regional or regional agreements it could contribute towards having a unified understanding of states' obligations in arms transfers.

      Will this stop arms from ending up in the hands of terrorists, rebel groups who might commit atrocities and the like? Probably not completely. Will it help? Probably yes. To what degree? That will depend on the enforcement mechanism that is agreed upon, which ultimately is the success or failure of all the UN's efforts. I think that if a creative method of enforcement is developed that skirts the UN SC or other bodies where it might get bogged down, the ATT has a chance to be one more tool to try to stop illegal and illicit arms flows.

    2. Scott, Washington, D says:

      Has the Ottawa Treaty stopped the use of land mines?

      You use the example of the Taliban using IED's as an example of the Ottawa Treaty not working. This is ridiculous. The Taliban is not a government and will never follow international law in any respect. Criminals not following law does not mean law has no value? The Ottawa Treaty has led to a delegitimizing of antipersonnel mines. Only two states have use landmines since 2007 and deaths and injuries due to mines has dramatically decreased over the last decade.

      You are right: international law will do nothing to change the behavior of actors who do not care what the law says. But most states do care and law is essential for identifying and pressuring criminals.

      For many countries, especially in Asia, the issue isn't a lack of enforcement, it is the lack of law to be enforced. Simply put, transferring weapons to Zimbabwe where there is a substantial risk of abuse is not illegal under the law of many countries. An ATT would make it so. Enforcement would be the next step.

      Some states will need assistance to develop national legislation, systems of control and border security to implement the treaty. States who are capable should provide that assistance – like the US does through the EXBS program.

      But I think your piece is addressing the states that do not want to control arms leaving their country or transfer weapons to terrorists and criminals for a variety of reasons. These states need to be compelled to stop their destabilizing behavior. I agree with you that a new treaty alone will not lead to enforcement. However, legally binding norms outlining what needs to be controlled and what basis to access whether a transfer is appropriate is essential for efforts to increase universal enforcement.

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    4. JW says:

      Simply put, the arms trade treaty will only serve to disarm the victims of genocide.. The vast majority of genocides in the 20th century have been committed by, or with the direct or indirect support of, the “legitimate” government and the ATT doesn’t prevent Governments from having Small Arms.. Case in point, the Rwandan Genocide of 1994, which resulted in 1,000,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu murdered in 100 days (10,000 per day), was committed by the Hutu Interahamwe but was supported by the Hutu Rwandan Army. The victims of this holocaust were denied arms by means of Rwandan law which made it illegal to possess arms and by international embargos that prevented them from getting them after the genocide had begun. We have to look at it this way, there are three things needed for genocide to occur: Means, Motive and Opportunity. In Rwanda, motive came in the form of generations of hatred between the majority Hutu and the minority Tutsi; Opportunity came with the assassination of President Juvénal Habyarimana; this only leaves Means – and when you have an armed aggressor and a disarmed victim, you have Means. Put these three together, you have the Rwandan genocide. Had any one of these dimensions been disrupted, it probably wouldn’t have happened. Had the Tutsi civilians been armed like Americans are, the Hutu simply wouldn’t have been able to walk into neighborhoods and engage in wholesale slaughter. In anticipation of the typical Liberal response to armed resistance – “.. well that would have made it worse and more people would have died…” I have two responses – (1) Simply put, more Hutu (remember their the bad guys here) would have died, and far less Tutsi (the victims) would have been slaughtered; and (2) the only thing worse than the murder of 1,000,000 innocent people is to push the idea that Cowardly submission to being murdered is somehow better than defending yourself. The ATT will only serve to empower a country’s ruling group and set the stage for future, larger, genocides, not prevent them..

    5. Saul, Communist Jers says:

      Great Article, keep up the great work. We need more patriotic voices to step up and be heard.

    6. Jarhead1982 Detroit says:

      So another law, to make something already illegal redundantly illegal accomplishes just what exactly? Especially as this treaty is written as to be vague, infringing, and counter to the US Constitution?

      Does this treaty pertain only to military weapons or does it include those for civilian use? This supposed treaty is vague enough that with all the legal mumbo jumbo lawyers love, it could be used against both and none of you have any legal proof to validate that it does not.

      By the way, what verifiable proof do you have that the signatories of those laws don't continue on their merry way of supplying said banned devices when they choose too? Having been on the inside of the machine and witnessing reality, if you believe they have or will stop, you are fools.

      Even when an inanimate object is banned, it still exists, it still gets supplied, it still gets built. History has proven this again, and again, and again etc…etc…!

      Maybe those sten gun and ammunition factories didn't spring up in the area now known as Israel in the 1940's when a ban/arms boycott was imposed. Guess those Afghan gun smiths didn't ever build an Enfield rifle from basic shop tools and raw materials in the mountains. Many more examples exist.

      Have you ever reviewed the countries with such bans and the count of weapons not registered but the authorities admit exist? Amazing how that is and always has been.

      In the US today there are 20,000 plus gun laws, by the Haynes vs US Supreme Court ruling 1968, over 85% of those laws do not apply to criminals as for them to submit to these laws would be a violation of their 5th amendment right. Review of the poster child of all gun control laws in the US the Brady Background Check shows that less than 1% off 1.67 million rejected people are even prosecuted. Yet more laws and framework will accomplish what exactly, nothing! It is all smoke and mirrors.

      The world is indeed complicated enough, and governments are too powerful as it is. Another useless piece of paper will only create more confusion and more leverage for governments who in reality are not interested in solving a problem as they are in leveraging such issues to gather more power. History continuously proves this to be true every single day!

      Rather here is a simple solution, the US is the largest financial contributor to the UN pledging .7% of GNI which in 2008 was $8,847,000 in millions of dollars, but giving .35% which equals $3.6 trillion dollars.

      How about the current administration does something smart and instead of paying that amount to an organization that by all evidence does so little for the US and its interests and use those monies to help the US citizens?

      We could use those funds to pay for every single persons medical coverage in the US which by US Census bureau was around $2.2 trillion dollars. This would instantly make US businesses cost competitive on a global scale, eliminate the need for more taxes, relieve the average citizen the burden of $4,000 to $20,000 they pay annually for health insurance coverage thereby boosting the economy. This influx on the US economy would impact the global market as it always does. This jump started economy would then by default increase tax revenues.

      Then a review could be performed to re-address exactly where to supply funds to world relief and support. This would also mean all those frenemies (who needs enemies with friends like them) at the UN would have to put up more efforts to support the abortion that is the UN.

      No the author is correct, repeating the same failure and revamping, revising and promoting said failures as a solution is indeed insanity, unless it is part of overall agenda, then it is simply evil!

    7. Kristinmishmash, Geo says:

      Once again, Progressives around the world seek to trample on our rights. Of course this won't work. It will only disarm the honest citizens making us a lot easier to control.

      We are walking down a road that has been tread before and few people know enough history to realize it.

    8. Mike, London says:

      You write: "Controlling the “parts” of “all arms,” ranging from bullets to battleships, would mean controlling every substantial part and industrial process in the world. A treaty of this scope could never be enforced and would be utterly meaningless in practice."

      This is reductio ad absurdum. What meaningful controls on parts of all arms would involve in practice would be to control the *specially-designed* components of all arms, as many advanced arms-exporting states – including the United States – already do. It would not involve "controlling every substantial part and industrial process in the world": in the U.S., ITAR arms control regulations control specially-designed components of the arms controlled under ITAR, and they have quite evidently not led to controls on all U.S. industrial exports, nor to the collapse of U.S. industry.

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