Chemical Weapons: Missing the Point

It is interesting to see the huffing and puffing about chemical weapons. However, can we honestly claim that chemical weapons are any worse than conventional weapons?

The purpose of all weapons is to kill and maim. the more of the opposition that you kill and maim the greater the chances are of your success in any war.  Wars always involve the development of new technology and often that new technology enables one side to win the war. This has been the case since the invention of iron weapons and continues right up to the present day.

There is, I agree, something insidious about chemical weapons, but no more than many other weapons which are not banned by treaty or international convention. If you ask a civilian or a member of an army whether he or she would rather be killed or maimed by explosives dropped from a great height or by chemicals released from rockets a long way away, you might not be surprised to learn that neither choice is acceptable. Whatever is used, be it dum dum bullets, poison gas, torpedoes from submarines, missiles, napalm, or nuclear bombs, people end up dead on maimed. The debate should not be about how people die, but why they die and whether their deaths are justified.

The point about bombing and chemical weapons is that they can both be deployed from a long distance with minimal risk to those who deploy them. I cannot see that the use of chemical weapons involves any greater moral turpitude than of bombing. Much of the preening and huffing and puffing about the use of chemical weapons comes from nations that have deployed them in the past. I do not think that it helps to understand what is happening in places like Syria to concentrate on who is using what weapons. We should be conncetrating on why people are fighting rather than with what they are fighting.

The question whenever weapons are used and whatever weapons are used should be is the war justified or not, not whether the means of war fit in to our compartmentalised thinking about the rules of war.

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