A Philosopher's Blog

The Chemical Weapon Deal

Posted in Ethics, Law, Philosophy, Politics by Michael LaBossiere on September 13, 2013
Chemical warfare

Chemical warfare (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In an interesting bit of accidental politics, the Russians and Syrians leaped on Secretary of State John Kerry’s off the cuff remarks about what would keep the United States from attacking Syria. To be specific, Kerry called for all Syria’s chemical weapons to be turned over and destroyed. Much to his surprise, the Russians grabbed the idea and ran with it, scoring what some pundits regard as a political touchdown against the United States. In any case, this matter is rather interesting.

On the face of it, if the Russians and Syrians are able to do what has been promised, the United States would lose its stated justification for attacking Syria. After all, while we have condemned the slaughter of civilians, we did not threaten action until the “red line” of chemical weapon use was allegedly crossed by the Syrian state. If Syria hands over its chemical weapons, then there will not be any chemical weapons for it to use and also none that the United States should target. As such, attacking Syria to prevent future use of these weapons would be out.

The United States could, of course, still claim that Syria should be attacked because of the alleged previous use of chemical weapons. After all, if a person commits a mass murder and then promises to hand over some of his guns, this hardly gives him a free pass on the past murders. In this case, the justification for the attack would be to punish the regime for that specific infraction. However, such an attack would seem to involve Kerry going back on what he seems to have hastily promised and it would certainly interfere with the proposed deal.

On the one hand, this deal does seem to be a morally superior option to an attack by the United States. After all, it would achieve a key stated goal of the attack (to deter future use of chemical weapons) without anyone being killed or injured in a military operation.

On the other hand, this deal would seem to be a deal with the devil. After all, if the United States goes along with the deal, we would be making it clear that the Syrian regime is free to keep killing provided that it does not kill people with chemical weapons. Going back to the previous analogy, this would be like a mass murderer agreeing to hand over the poison he used to kill some people in return for being allowed to get back to killing, but limited to murdering with his shotgun and machete.

As a final point, it is worth noting the deal could be a morally correct option on the grounds that it would remove the chemical weapons from Syria. In the event that Syria falls into chaos or is taken over by more extreme extremists, they would at least be denied access to chemical weapons. There would, no doubt, be rather bad consequences if such weapons fell into “wronger” hands and were made available to terrorists.



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3 Responses

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  1. T. J. Babson said, on September 13, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    This deal legitimizes Assad and gives him time to defeat his enemies.

    It would have been better if O had stuck to covert operations.

  2. ajmacdonaldjr said, on September 13, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    The latest, official government-media disinformation is telling us that “A secretive Syrian military unit at the center of the Assad regime’s chemical weapons program has been moving stocks of poison gases and munitions to as many as 50 sites to make them harder for the U.S. to track” and that “U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies still believe they know where most of the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons are located, but with less confidence than six months ago” and that “In addition to satellites, the U.S. also relies on Israeli spies for on-the-ground intelligence about the unit, according to U.S. and Israeli officials.” See: Elite Syrian Unit Scatters Chemical Arms Stockpile – http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324755104579071330713553794.html

    U.S. and Israeli intelligence… the U.S. and Israel… are joined at the hip… which is very dangerous…

    “Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.” ~ US President George Washington

    The latest from Mr Snowden tells us the “NSA shares raw intelligence including Americans’ data with Israel” and that this “Raw Sigint includes, but is not limited to, unevaluated and unminimized transcripts, gists, facsimiles, telex, voice and Digital Network Intelligence metadata and content.” See: NSA shares raw intelligence including Americans’ data with Israel – http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/11/nsa-americans-personal-data-israel-documents

    Yes America: “content”… and not just “metadata”.

    To some Americans, this is Israeli problem is old news…

    After all, it wasn’t al Qaeda cells that were rounded-up after 9/11…. it was Israeli cells…

    FOX News Special Report: Israeli spies in America

    • Douglas Moore said, on September 13, 2013 at 1:44 pm

      Everyone spies on everyone. Nations have no friends, only allies.

      Of course Syria scattered their stockpiles. We blabbered our mouths to the world and violated yet another military maxim: Surprise. My word these people are incompetant. And I actually have to do what they tell me…..

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