Arms-trade treaty talks collapse, supporters rip Obama

posted at 10:01 am on July 28, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

I doubt anyone reading Hot Air will mind this, but it looks like the UN won’t get a chance to dictate terms of the Second Amendment any time soon.  Yesterday evening, talks on an international arms-trade treaty collapsed when the US and a few other nations demanded an extension of time before committing to a position.  The rest of the participants suspended the entire effort — and activists pointed their fingers at Barack Obama:

The United Nations indefinitely suspended action on an international arms trade treaty Friday after the United States and several other countries asked for more time.

The decision sparked angry reactions from human rights groups often allied with the Obama administration, who believed a treaty to regulate the export of deadly weapons to rogue regimes was within reach. The UN had spent the entire month of July hammering out a deal, and Friday was the deadline for an agreement on a treaty that has met with the staunch opposition of the National Rifle Association and bipartisan concerns in the Senate.

“This was stunning cowardice by the Obama administration, which at the last minute did an about-face and scuttled progress toward a global arms treaty, just as it reached the finish line,” said Suzanne Nossel, the executive director of Amnesty International USA. “It’s a staggering abdication of leadership by the world’s largest exporter of conventional weapons to pull the plug on the talks just as they were nearing an historic breakthrough that would have required all nations to deny arms export licenses where there was an overriding risk that the weapons would be used to facilitate serious crimes against humanity.”

And Scott Stedjan, Oxfam America’s senior policy advisor, called the failure “a tremendous loss for thousands of innocent civilians around the globe who die each year from armed violence fueled by the unregulated transfer of arms.”

It wasn’t just a few activist groups that vented their frustrations, either.  A statement put forward by the UK, France, Germany, and 87 other nations complained that the draft treaty was all but ready to be adopted.  Without naming Obama, the nations pointed out their own “compromises” and had “overwhelming support of the international community” before the US demanded more time to consider it.

Frankly, Obama didn’t have much choice.  A majority of 51 Senators had already signed a letter promising to vote against ratification if the treaty covered “small arms” and/or “light weapons,” which the draft treaty does — in fact, it explicitly includes “small arms and light weapons” in Article 2, Section A1h.  Obama could have signed this draft a hundred times, and it still would have had no chance of passing in its current form.  Had the UN struck that provision, this treaty might have won the required 67 votes for approval in the Senate, and it still would have been a big step forward in arms control … at least on paper.

The problems with this treaty mirror those of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty: it sets up a UN agency that has no teeth, where enforcement ends up being a game between the West on one side and Russia and China on the other.  Meanwhile, North Korea has already gone nuclear, and Iran isn’t too far away, while Russia and China protect their client states and the West vainly tries to enforce the agreement.  This would have put the US in the same position, only this treaty would have the force of law inside the US, which would mean we would bind ourselves to its terms while the rest of the world’s kleptocrats and tyrants would ignore it.

For now, though, it’s a moot point.  Obama will end up taking the blame for this “failure,” which might seem unfair — but Obama chose to participate in this folly in 2009 after the US had previously refused, so he only has himself to blame for the impossible position in which he now finds himself.  That’s called smart power, apparently.

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