Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Chemical weapons and the U.S.

George Monbiot:
In 1997 the US agreed to decommission the 31,000 tonnes of sarin, VX, mustard gas and other agents it possessed within 10 years. In 2007 it requested the maximum extension of the deadline permitted by the Chemical Weapons Convention – five years. Again it failed to keep its promise, and in 2012 it claimed they would be gone by 2021. Russia yesterday urged Syria to place its chemical weapons under international control. Perhaps it should press the US to do the same.
Ever since I first hear about the fact that the U.S. has a chemical weapons stockpile, I've wondered why it keeps them. I mean, it costs money to maintain them. They are also a huge security risk--they can be stolen or just blown up where they are, spreading a deadly gas over whatever unlucky part of the country they happen to be hidden in. Which means there also has to be a some significant costs to guard them. They are also essentially unusable as weapons. Any benefit to be gained on the battlefield will be vastly outweighed by the adverse affects on American interests if it uses a weapon like that. The U.S. has a massive nuclear arsenal, which unlike chemical weapons, it can legally keep under international law (provided that the U.S. is officially committed to disarmament at some later date in the hazy future). And maintaining chemical weapons also undermines American credibility when it confronts other regimes which have them.

What's the point? Why keep asking for an extension? Why not just decommission them now, save us all some money and the fears that they could fall into the wrong hands? Why not neutralize the hypocrisy argument (at least that one small particular hypocrisy argument. There are still plenty of others)?