Chemical weapons have long since been an important issue in international politics. After the world suffered from these weapons in World War I, it became clear to many that steps must be taken to forbid the use of these weapons if at all possible. This sample politics paper explores the development, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons, as well as the efforts that have been made internationally in limiting and preventing the use of such dangerous weapons.
History and politics of chemical weapons of mass destruction
In nature, only a certain types of metallic elements are naturally occurring. It is only after the human species advance and develops that they begin blacksmithing specific blends of metal. With the introduction of gunpowder, the world would be severely altered from its natural level. As conflicts become larger and killing people one at a time is no longer efficient, weapons are introduced that contain poisonous and damaging chemicals to physiologically harm the target.
The first large-scale use of chemical weapons of mass destruction was during World War I between 1914-1918. Weapons containing elements such as chlorine, phosgene and the deadly combination known as “mustard” were produced and deployed to be used in the battle against enemy lines during the trench warfare of the time period (Fitzgerald, 2008).
Aftermath of WWI
After an animalistic, barbaric and uncivilized war, countries experiencing the damages from these chemical weapons were quick to condemn and ban such tactics. Nonetheless, chemical weapons became nuclear weapons as the world was introduced to the devastating impact of an atomic explosion with Hiroshima and Nagasaki Japan as the first live test subjects at the conclusion of World War II.
Since the conclusion of the two world wars, efforts have been made by intergovernmental organizations and global governance to limit the use of chemical, biological and atomic weaponry because of the damage they cause to the population as a whole. Despite the measure, the use of chemical warfare still takes place when a national power is in desperate need. This shows the international law is currently weak as it is and more measures need to be taken to ensure global security and equality.
League of Nations and the efforts to end chemical weapons
Global governance began with the League of Nations at the conclusion of WWI but quickly failed and fell apart as World War II and the attempts to expand freedom proves. The public, outraged at the damage caused by the use of chemical weapons. The public grievances resulted in what is known as the Geneva Protocol (1925), which prohibits the use of any chemical weaponry during warfare. But historical analysis shows governments are not likely to listen and act upon the well-being of their population, but rather in their own self-interests to remain in power.
Ironically enough, the Geneva Protocol prohibited the use of chemical weapons during warfare but did not prevent the development, production and stockpiling of such a damaging weapons arsenal (UNODA, 2013). Logically, why would a product be produced in mass if there were no intent for its use? As it can clearly be seen, this first international effort to control chemical weaponry after WWI was a failure, partly due to the ambiguous use of language in the agreement.
With each country having its own sovereignty, it is difficult to think how a single entity or organization affect or stop the decisions of national government elites, especially in countries known as great powers. In her book Success and Failure in Arms Control Negotiations, April Carter notes several barriers to arms control agreements such as ideology, political and military obstacles, psychological factors and the momentum of weapon technology advancement (Carter, 1989). The failure of the Geneva Protocol failure would be the leading failures of international control on chemical weapons as seen by WWII and the Cold War.
Weapons of mass destruction
The age of chemical, nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction come before the age of the Internet and information. Therefore, the unrealistic expectations of international regulation on chemical and nuclear weapons of mass destruction are much more practical and applicable. Satellite technology mixed with infrared and other methods of imaging can show irregular activity taking place underneath a factory, for example, and immediately raise inquiry.
Another significant factor affecting the enforceability of weapon control initiatives and the effectiveness of weapons inspection teams is the idea that these agencies are no longer unprecedented. Today, international organizations like the United Nations, European Union, and the International Atomic Energy Association have been around long enough to establish some type of precedent and procedural routine such as annual and random inspections.
Whereas a global society just finishing a devastating world war may by reluctant to release some of its sovereignty to an organization out of its control, an increasingly globalizing and developing world like today provides a much less hostile environment for countries to consider compliance. Once countries have adopted an agreement, how the first precedent is set is extremely important.
Whereas the loosely binding Geneva Protocol hardly had an effect on the nations it tried to limit, a stringently set protocol like the one created in the CWC, backed with even as little as 10 years of precedent, can create an international regime of compliance and enforcement.Exemplification of this is with the recent success of the OPCW in destroying the stockpiles of chemical weapons in Libya as recent
Regulating chemical weapon usage during war
Steel and weaponry do not naturally exist in nature. It is only with the advancement of humans and the development of societies and countries that the need for weapons leads to their development. A simple spear evolved into a metal gun, which evolved into chemical gas release devises biologically engineered to destroy a human’s circulatory and respiratory systems. Realizing the horrors of such tactics, efforts were made immediately after WWI to prevent the continuance of such damaging behavior.
Due to the lack of trust and accountability of the time, such measures were unable to be enforced. After another horrific world war and the further stockpiling of weapons during the Cold War, the world became increasingly interconnected through information technology and economic interdependence through globalization. The result is a global incentive for a safer world in order to promote further growth and prosperity. This incentive has led to the creation of effective weapons enforcement agencies like the OPCW and IAEA. All in all, it can be said that our world is safer today than it has ever been.
Noting the failure of chemical weapon control initiatives, the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) was adopted by the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva in 1992. Aware of the failure of past protocols to enforce, the CWC provides stringent guidelines for compliance of member signatories. With this motive to create enforcement and accountability, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was established to coordinate the logistics of fulfilling the objectives of the convention.
Carter, April. Success and Failure in Arms Control Negotiations. Oxford [England: Oxford UP, 1989. Print.
Fitzgerald, Gerard J. “Chemical Warfare and Medical Response During World War I.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Apr. 2008. Web. 30 May 2013. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2376985/.
OPCW. “Libya Completes Destruction of Its Bulk Sulfur Mustard Stockpile.” OPCW – News. ORGANISATION FOR THE PROHIBITION OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS, 6 May 2013. Web. 30 May 2013. http://www.opcw.org/news/article/libya-completes-destruction-of-its-bulk-sulfur-mustard-stockpile/.
“UNODA – Chemical Weapons.” UN News Center. United Nations, n.d. Web. 30 May 2013. http://www.un.org/disarmament/WMD/Chemical/.