The Arms Trade Treaty Conceit

New Zealand will lead the way as one of the first countries to sign the landmark Arms Trade Treaty, adopted by the United Nations, which opens for signature in New York today.

Source: NZ Herald

The news that New Zealand will sign a piece of paper that will apparently make it harder for people who want to kill other people to obtain a means of killing other people efficiently isn’t going to change a thing.

Cognitive dissonance theory explains human behavior by positing that people have a bias to seek consonance between their expectations and reality.

When you know that arms sales is big business for the US, Germany, France, Russia, China and even Sweden the reality about arms sales is quite clear. When you realise that countries have interests that they seek to protect as opposed to some sort of objective guidelines for their strategic behaviour, you’ll realise that silly pieces of paper like this are stupid.

But let’s think about what the participants in the process got out of it.

  1. A lot of first class flights, hotel rooms and dinners were expensed in pursuit of this piece of paper.
  2. An enormous number of officials will feel good about themselves because they are engaged in self-actualising work that could change the world.
  3. Small countries who are irrelevant (like New Zealand) get to claim credit for being responsible global citizens while simultaneously not doing anything about their own contribution to questionable practices in global trade.

The hypocrisy of voting for a piece of paper that seeks to restrict the arms trade, while not commenting on US support for rebels in Libya (they supported Al-Queda) and Syria (they’re supporting Al-Queda inadvertently) is mind boggling.

In New York, at the United Nations, where our former Prime Minister Helen Clark earns enormous amounts of tax free dollars making herself feel like she is bringing about change, a lot of champagne will be drunk over this treaty.

I don’t understand what motivates crusaders at Amnesty International and Oxfam. They have accomplished nothing, in some cases made things worse by convincing people that the screwed up global arms trade is getting solved.

Think about what is happening in Turkey right now: do you really think that countries who have strategic interests in Turkey (Russia, United States, European Union, Great Britain and Iran) would not get involved if there was a civil war there?

The civil war in Syria is already spilling into Lebanon and all that will come of it is a sectarian bloodbath following any collapse of Assad’s regime. Do you think that fun would be allowed under an Islamist government? Maybe we have our fetishisation of democracy completely wrong. Maybe the dictator we know is better than the mob we do not.

Actions have consequences. Diplomatic interference has consequences. The arms trade treaty is not going to change anything and in fact is likely to lead to a proliferation of arms trafficking as now arms trafficking monitors have less reason to be able to argue for funding increases because they got their Treaty Of A Lifetime passed.

Les trois fautes de l’Occident

The former French ambassador to Senegal wrote about the 3 mistakes the West has made with respect to dealing with dictators and regimes that abuse human rights. Hat tip to King’s College London strategic studies blog Kings of War for pointing me to the article in September’s Paris Match.

Jean-Christophe Rufin, who has been involved in a lot of non-profits and was one of the founders of Médecins Sans Frontières points to three key mistakes. My explanations of the points he makes are my own translation from the French. I’ve added a decent amount of my own commentary so if you want you can go to Google Translate and read the original article.

Incarner le mal – personalising the bad

When a dictatorship is on the trajectory towards collapse we put a face to the terror – Saddam, Khaddafi, Assad. We fail to recognise the utter chaos that can occur in the transition. We actually put humn rights more at risk. He argues that it’s harder to get people to care when the terror is from a group – Salafists in Mali for example.

Last week on Radio New Zealand Kim Vinnell presented a tragic story of the rise of Islamism and struggle in Mali post the collapse of the Khaddafi regime. How many people in New Zealand will care about the plight of Mali’s people who don’t agree with having your hand chopped off for stealing?

Idéaliser les « rebelles » – idolising the “rebels”

Without thinking clearly, rebel groups are automatically imputed with some level of moral superiority. Western journalists jump to conclusions, like thinking that the Arab Spring was about democracy. As the voters have shown in Tunisia and Egypt, conservative Islam is democratically preferred by the people in those countries.

The Libyan rebels first act of government was to legalise polygamy. They’ve subsequently spent more time implementing Sharia law than getting rebuilding underway. The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood very narrowly maintained the tenuous peace Mubarak had maintained with Israel.

Croire qu’au nom du bien tout est permis – believing that in the name of doing good, anything is permissible

NATO quickly went “all out” in disposing of Khaddafi. But the power vacuum in Libya is filled by different rebel groups that include the local franchise of Al-Queda. The US Consulate attack in Benghazi and death of the US Ambassador to Libya should make it patently clear that Libya has not suddenly become a paradise. The fallout from the collapse of the Khaddafi regime includes an influx of extremists into Mali and other countries in North Africa, flush with arms and hard currency.

The arrogance with which the West attempts to interfere in other countries leads to a lot of unintended consequences. Exporting “democracy” is a cruel and sick joke. Just look at public opinion surveys in the Middle East – they are overwhelmingly in favour of Sharia law, isolationism, persecution of Christians and of course the elimination of Israel.

Reports that the United States has been funnelling arms to Syrian rebels are not good at all. Already the violence in Syria has spilled over into Lebanon with the assassination of a senior intelligence official and street level violence. The risk of further tension between Turkey and Syria is an aggravating factor. The influence that Iran has over Hezbollah and Shi’ite factions in Syria do not bode well for a prompt resolution to the Syrian civil war.

Referring back to Jean Christophe-Rufin he concludes that if we are going to intervene in other countries, we need a far more responsible doctrine that realises building a peaceful society “post dictatorships” takes a lot of work.

“First, do no harm”.