As Arms Trade Treaty Meeting Concludes, U.S. Frustrations Grow

Posted By Theodore Bromund On July 23, 2010 @ 12:00 pm In American Leadership | 1 Comment

Once again, America’s interests, and the rights of her people, are at risk. And once again, a United Nations treaty is the source of this danger—the U.N Arms Trade Treaty [1], to be specific.

The Preparatory Committee for the U.N.’s Arms Trade Treaty is nearing the end of its second and final week of meetings.

The Preparatory Committee is not engaged in negotiating a treaty, but in defining what should be included in the treaty when it is negotiated. As a result, many of the statements by the participating states are very general. But enough has been said to show that the Obama Administration’s decision to participate only on the basis of “consensus”—which it justified as a way to ensure that the final treaty is satisfactory—was ill-advised.

Right off the bat, Belgium, speaking for the EU and acknowledging that “a certain number of countries still retain concerns [2],” called on those with concerns to show “engagement and flexibility.”

Nigeria—speaking for the African Group—also struck [3] a familiar note: that of self-interest cloaked in principle. It called on the committee to recognize “the special responsibilities of major arms producers and the special rights of arms importing States.” In plain language, that means that the African Group wants a treaty that imposes all the responsibilities on the United States, and gives its own members “special rights.” Among those rights—supposedly based on Article 51 of the U.N. Charter—would be, as Nigeria stated, a guarantee that all U.N. member states (be they dictatorships or democracies) have the right to import all the arms they want.

This, not surprisingly, was also Iran’s view. To quote it in full, it demanded [4]:

In view of my delegation, the most important principle that the ATT shall be based upon is the sovereign and inherent right of States to acquire, manufacture, export, import and retain conventional arms, technology and know-how for their self-defense and security needs in accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter.

That demand summed up the delusory beliefs on which the Arms Trade Treaty process is based. It is supposedly intended to create basic standards for the international sale or transfer of arms—with the goal of keeping these arms out of the hands of terrorists, insurgents, and mass murderers. But because it’s proceeding through the U.N., with the U.N.’s universal membership, the treaty has to be based on the assumption that all U.N. member states are law-abiding and democratic.

This creates a bit of a mystery, because it leaves unexplained exactly how terrorists, insurgents, and mass murderers get arms. The answer, of course, is that states like Iran supply them. But you will not hear the U.N. saying that.

What you will hear is a lot of U.S. frustration. Throughout the committee’s meeting, the U.S. has repeatedly called for the other delegations to abandon their fantastic positions and embrace some semblance of reality.

On July 15, the U.S. said it would block the treaty if hunting weapons were included. As the plenary sessions resumed on July 21, the U.S. intervened twice in the discussion, both times to urge delegates to focus on what was realistic and achievable.

Sadly, there is not much sign the U.S.’s words have had any effect. That same day, Mexico—speaking for eight other Central and South American nations—called for a treaty that would cover: [5]

All types of conventional weapons (regardless of their purpose), including small arms and light weapons, ammunition, components, parts, technology and related materials[,] hence permitting the development of the concept [of] “conventional arms” together with the future with technological developments of the armaments industry . . . Internal transfers which . . . might have an impact on other States should also be part of an ATT.

In other words, Mexico and its compatriots want a treaty that covers all weapons that exist now or are invented in the future, all parts of weapons, all technology related to all weapons, and which applies to gun sales inside the United States.

That is just the kind of demand that the U.S. has repeatedly warned the committee against making—both because it is unrealistic and would create a completely unverifiable treaty, and because it immediately raises extremely serious questions about the implications of the treaty on rights guaranteed under the Second Amendment. That is not a shock. But in view of the public efforts of the U.S. to encourage sanity, it is regrettable nonetheless.

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