2003 January 09 Thursday
International Law And Agreements Can Not Protect Us

Writing in the Times of London Philip Bobbitt makes an argument for the necessity of attacking Iraq.

The matter of Iraqi WMD cannot be detached from the development of non-state, or even virtual state, actors like al-Qaeda, which are well-financed and global, but are of no fixed abode and therefore immune to threats of retaliation. Whether there has been any direct collaboration between al-Qaeda and Saddam, the very existence of a global terrorist network makes Iraq’s nuclear and WMD capacity so much more threatening than that of other tyrannous regimes in previous eras.

Saddam would clearly be capable of using these non-state actors as unidentifiable agents to attack the US or the UK with weapons he would not dare use against us directly. But surely, some argue, we would know he was behind such an attack and would retaliate? Perhaps. But many doubt whether we know all the actors responsible for Lockerbie; we still do not know the authors of the anthrax attacks on Washington.

The widening availability of technology that makes it ever more easy to develop weapons of mass destruction obsolesces the existing body of international law governing the use of force by states. Attacks by small groups become steadily more lethal and also less traceable. Bobbitt seems to understand this. But he doesn't seem to understand the limits of what can be accomplished by an agreement between nations when at least one party of the agreement intends to violate it.

North Korea is now demanding a non-aggression agreement from the US as a condition of giving up its WMD. Let’s give it to them.

There is no way to verify the North Korean regime's compliance with such an agreement. The regime will try to violate any agreement that it enters into. Intentions matter. Any regime with sufficient intellectual and material resources that intends to develop WMD will eventually succeed in doing so. An incredibly closed society such as North Korea is extremely difficult to monitor for compliance with agreements. As long as North Korea is governed by a leadership that intends to develop WMD the very existence of the regime constitutes a threat to the United States and to a number of other countries.

What is at stake here is whether North Korea will succeed in becoming Nuclear KMart to the rogue states and terrorist groups of the world. The North Korean regime has already demonstrated a willingness to tolerate mass starvation of its population in order to stay in power. It has already become a supplier of missiles and weapons technology to other regimes. It has no internal moral restraints against selling weapons of mass destruction to the highest bidder. If the North Korean regime remains in power it will develop greater abilities to manufacture and deliver WMD and it will also grow in its role as a WMD proliferator.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 January 09 11:29 PM  US Foreign Preemption, Deterrence, Containment


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