cross-posted at Noodling on It
This is, by far, the most comprehensive analysis and dissection of the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty that is currently being written this month.
I’ve been reading the growing hysteria about how the ATT will impact the gun rights of American citizens. And until today I was totally confused about the treaty and how something crafted by the U.N. could ultimately impact our Second Amendment rights.
Even after reading the link, I’m still not 100% clear on the purpose of the ATT however – I am clear enough.
Most of the ATT is – vague. This is very problematic on the international stage as you can see in the analysis of some particularly disturbing criteria that I have excerpted below; in each of the criteria this is the thought applied before it – “…the Draft Paper states that, when considering whether to authorize the export of arms, national authorities—i.e., not a U.N. organization—should consider 10 criteria”:
1. “Be used in a manner that would seriously undermine peace or security or, provoke, prolong or aggravate internal, regional, subregional or international instability.”
- If this criterion had existed in 1941, it would have made U.S. support for Britain before Pearl Harbor under the Lend Lease program illegal, because the purpose of that program was to “prolong” the “international instability” we now know as the Second World War. In many cases, the U.S. wants to bring wars to a close. But on occasion—when the good guys (or the less bad guys) are losing—it wants to prolong them so that the good guys can win. The idea that all wars should be ended as soon as possible gives every advantage to the aggressors, because they will hit first and then be able to argue that the war should not be prolonged by the defender.
- More broadly, by and large, the U.S. seeks to diminish international instability, but in some cases, instability exists unavoidably, in large part because of the behavior of dictatorial, autocratic, and aggressive states. The idea that the achievement of international stability should be an overriding objective governing arms transfers gives the initiative to those states, because they will always claim that U.S. arms sales to their enemies are the reason why they are forced to be aggressive.
- The universal pursuit of internal stability is particularly dangerous. Before the Libyan people rebelled against him, the regime of Muammar Qadhafi appeared to be very stable internally. Stability can easily be nothing more than a code word for “very successfully repressive dictatorship.”
3. “Be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international human rights law.”
- This power would certainly be used to lecture and pressure the U.S. for various alleged sins—as the U.N. Human Rights Council regularly does—and would even more assuredly be wielded against Israel. On the other hand, the world’s dictatorial regimes would get off very lightly for the simple reason that they exercise disproportionate influence in the U.N.’s human rights institutions.
The record of the council on Libya illustrates this all too clearly. On March 18, 2011, the council was scheduled to consider its final report on Libya’s human rights record. The report piled praise on Libya, making only 66 recommendations for improvements. (The U.S., by contrast, received 228 recommendations.) The council then did an embarrassing about-face and, in the face of the revolt that toppled Qadhafi, adopted a resolution condemning his regime. In the context of the council, this is a farce. In the context of criteria contained in a legally binding treaty on the arms trade, the systemic bias of U.N. human rights institutions in favor of dictatorships is profoundly dangerous.The same objections can be entered against this provision. “International human rights law” is a broad term, implying some commitments the U.S. has accepted and some it has rejected. It places the power of defining the precise commitments made under the terms of the ATT in the hands of various U.N. bodies, experts on international law, vocally assertive NGOs, and the world’s nations, all of which claim to have a hand in the elaboration of international human rights law.
- The world frequently offers a choice not between good and bad, but only between bad and worse. A treaty that obliged the U.S. to sell only to buyers who were very unlikely to offend against international human rights law, however defined, would prevent it from making the most elementary and necessary choices.
Because the definition of terrorism is left – undefined – in the ATT, this criteria really shows how impossible this treaty is:
8. “Be used to support, encourage or perpetrate terrorist acts.”
- This illustrates one of the features that makes the ATT perversely attractive to many of the world’s nations: Because it stigmatizes terrorism without actually defining it, the ATT is a weapon that nations hope to use against foreign support for their rebels (which they will define as terrorists) while at the same time legitimating their own support for terrorists abroad (whom they will refer to as resisting foreign occupation). The end result is that the ATT will not aid in stopping terrorism; it will only raise the stakes in the verbal arms race to define terrorism.
I read the entire link trying to find the place that supports the dire predictions about gun control changes in the U.S. and finally found it:
- Various U.N. organizations and NGOs have argued that strict gun control is a human right and that the inherent right to self-defense—the existence of which was accepted by the Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008)—either should not be recognized or does not exist. Their argument, in brief, is that the state is responsible for ensuring public safety and that a state that does not restrict self-defense is failing to fulfill this obligation and thus is violating the human rights of its citizens. By this argument, the failure to enact strict gun control is a violation of international human rights law.
Thus, a further risk of accepting an IHL (internationaal human rights law) standard is that IHL will—as is already happening—evolve by U.N. declaration into an open rejection of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, understood not simply as protecting the right to keep and bear arms, but as being based on the inherent right to self-defense. This evolution could directly affect rights protected under the Second Amendment by influencing the decisions of U.S. judges, by shaping the opinions offered by lawyers in the executive branch, or both. In short, the inclusion of the IHL criterion in the ATT raises the broader problem of transnationalism (discussed below) and offers one obvious way for the ATT to be transformed over time into a gun control treaty.
And as worrisome as all of this is, it is compounded by the fact that the United States had an opportunity to comment on the draft of this treaty back in March 2012 – and passed. Which by default would indicate that Obama and his minions support the treaty as it was originally drafted.
Of course the treaty would have to pass a ratification vote in the Senate and it is my belief that there aren’t enough votes for it. As well the House could also block it thru budgetary means.
And this all assumes that the will to deny ratification exists. Of that I am less certain.
It could all still be a tempest in a teapot; if Obama loses in November and the Senate stalls ratification until after the election…it could all come to naught. Or the U.N. Security Council could fail to come to agreement about all the criterion before their self-imposed deadline of July 27th.
And until any of those events comes to pass, this U.N. Arms Trade Treaty bears watching.