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Why democracy is an insufficient force against WMD

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The British parliament's refusal to countenance military intervention in Syria, and President Barack Obama's decision to delay a strike until Congress approves it, point to a larger, even more dangerous contradiction of the mass destruction age.

That is, parliamentary democracy and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) sit ill together. Each confounds the other's natural working.

This is for two reasons. First: everything about weapons of mass destruction - their possession, storage, security and use - demands centralized, authoritarian control and rapid decision making unimpeded by debate, except from within a tiny command circle. And when a rogue state uses or threatens to use WMD, leaders must react rapidly and forcefully, unconstrained by their legislatures. When they are so constrained, the result can be similar to what the British government suffered last week. Democracies that wish to police the use of WMD are held back by the same protocols that allow these institutions to thrive.

The second, and greater, contradiction between an active and mature democracy and WMD is that many of the countries that possess, or aspire to possess, biological or chemical weapons have weak or nonexistent democracies. These leaders are not accountable to their citizens - who are powerless and, in the case of Syria, the targets of these weapons. Much of current WMD instability lies in the Middle East. The region is roiling, with Syria's civil war at the head but with conflicts or potential conflicts in Lebanon, Libya and Tunisia. Iran likely has biological and chemical stocks, and is likely acquiring nuclear weapons. Egypt is striving, amid threats of terrorism, to embed democratic polity after its failure under the Muslim Brotherhood government and the Army coup that deposed President Mohamed Mursi. Algeria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have, or are suspected to have or be developing, biological and/or chemical weapons.

The leaders of the security services, the military and the executives of the major western states live with this knowledge at the front of their conscious thoughts. Yet they are beholden to a public and to lawmakers who generally don't. Especially in the UK, lawmakers remember, when such issues come up, the debacles of Iraq and Afghanistan, the hostility of their constituents to more commitments in such thankless and apparently futile wars, and the (ill-founded) belief that the Iraq intervention was launched on a sea of lies. Their constituents are men and women who have grown up in relative peace and security, and who must be convinced that threats are imminent. Before the Nazi threat of the 1930s, the British people were reluctant to admit the need to fight: Winston Churchill's great speech of November 1934, warning of approaching war with Germany, was imbued with the realization that he was speaking to a nation of skeptics and was not generally believed.

In the U.S., it took all of FDR's cunning - and more to the point, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor - to bring the U.S. into the war, and to win it. In both countries today, lawmakers spend much more time on domestic than foreign issues - which is what their voters want them to do. It is a great irony that countries that police WMD do so without the support of their citizens.

I told my mid-twenties son a few days ago that eradicating WMD was a task for his generation of leaders. I then corrected myself. It's the task for the present generations, from the forty-somethings to the seventy-somethings. Or even eighty-somethings: in 2007 the then 84-year-old Henry Kissinger (now 90) joined other U.S. political figures to argue that "the world is now on the precipice of a new and dangerous nuclear era," and to urge U.S. leadership in seeking a nuclear-free world.

They put it too narrowly. The world is on the precipice of a WMD era, where chemical and biological weaponry - less deadly, but hideous enough and much easier to make - could lever open a door that is now already cracking. Democratic chambers, democratic publics, must be shown the danger, grasp the need to stop deployment - at an extreme, by force. For down the precipice is the threat of democracy's destruction, with much else.

© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2013.

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

8 Comments
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Democracy IS a WMD.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The British parliament's refusal to countenance military intervention in Syria, and President Barack Obama's decision to delay a strike until Congress approves it, point to a larger, even more dangerous contradiction of the mass destruction age.

Had Obama not lost his major supporter (Britain), he would never have gone to the congress!!! Did he get permission from congress to attack Lybia? No he didn't! Democracy means nothing to Obama, didn't you hear what he said yesterday in G20? He said something like this (not exact quote): even though the majority of Americans are against the war, I know better, and I will go to war! Obama has proved to be even worse then Bush! The US congress has no say in the fate of Syria! It is the United Nations that has the legal ability to accuse Syria not one country's president and congress! The US blocks every Security council statement against Israel, it is not only Russia that vetos resolutions!

in the case of Syria, the targets of these weapons

No one knows if the Syrian government actually used those weapons, there was no need to! The rebels are loosing, why should the government have used chemical weapons!?!?!?!?!?!? The foreign supporters of the rebels provided them with these weapons and they sacrificed some of their own women and children to fool simpletons (the author of this report is one of them!). There is absolutely no evidence or reason for the government to have done this!

Iran likely has biological and chemical stocks

There is no evidence for this claim either! Why do you make things up!?!? (Like all the above)

Please don't forget that the US has one of the largest chemical, biological and nuclear stockpiles of the world! That is why it so easily ignores the United Nations Security Council! When the other countries see this, they say to them selves why shouldn't we have this power? The US is creaky showing that as long as you have power law means nothing!!!!

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

This article seems to be implying that the only way to stop madmen with WMDs is to become a madman yourself and ignore the will of the people. Politicians are elected BY the people to SERVE the people, not their own interests. Cameron accepted this last week, which is the first time I have had any respect for him. Obama on the other hand seems hell-bent on taking America into a war.

What started as talks about punitive strikes is fast becoming a prolonged campaign of bombs and missiles to bring about regime change... which is what we were originally told it was NOT about.

Rule #1: politicians lie.

In the U.S., it took all of FDR’s cunning - and more to the point, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor - to bring the U.S. into the war, and to win it.

America didn't win the war, they HELPED to win the war. Get your facts straight!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

First: everything about weapons of mass destruction - their possession, storage, security and use - demands centralized, authoritarian control and rapid decision making unimpeded by debate, except from within a tiny command circle. I guess this would be your opinion. Why a centralized, authoritarian control? This gives rise to the elite know best and no one needs to know what effects their life except the elite who are in control. Unimpeded by debate means that they make the decisions for everyone living. This is nonsense at best. If the bomb is coming at you you can not debate that but heresay about weapons of mass destruction demand investigation and debate. This article is trying to make mass hysteria and every citizen give all of their freedom to the "ones in charge". I will never succumb to such foolishness. Choose your leaders well and stay informed, never follow the media as they will not tell the truth. Debate everything and blindly follow no one.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Choose your leaders well and stay informed, never follow the media as they will not tell the truth. Debate everything and blindly follow no one.

Totally with you there, Kent. BBC reporters are no longer neutral in reporting anything from the Middle East... and as for Channel 4 news in the UK... they are now like a wing of Al Jazeera!

0 ( +2 / -2 )

This article is just war-mongering idiotic propaganda.

And when a rogue state uses or threatens to use WMD, leaders must react rapidly and forcefully, unconstrained by their legislatures.

Firstly, it is clear that the author here is talking about Syria... except that we don't know that it was the state. IN FACT it isn't always states who have access to WMDs. Hasn't one of the big messages during the "War on Terror" been that small terrorist organizations can make WMDs? ... or did everyone just forget the U.S. government's last 5 years of anti-terrorist fear-mongering?

So right at the very beginning Mr. Lloyd's argument is in tatters. He presumes that it is a state vs state scenario, when instead it may well be a small group of extremists. By Mr. Lloyd's "logic" Japan should have been shelled after the Sarin gas attack... because that would have helped the situation SOOOOOO much!?! ... not.

I could go on ripping Mr. Lloyd to pieces, but suffice it to say that it can safely be dismissed as a steaming pile of pro-war propaganda based on a never-ending stream of lies, misinformation and faulty logic.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Which Nation Is Worst And Using The MOST Weapons Of Mass Destruction? via @AGreenRoad http://agreenroad.blogspot.com/2013/09/which-nation-is-worst-and-using-most.html

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This article seems to be implying that the only way to stop madmen with WMDs is to become a madman yourself and ignore the will of the people.

To play devil's advocate, isn't the purpose of representative democracy to avoid situations where decisions are simply decided based on populism?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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