March 18, 2013

WALTER RUSSELL MEAD: Guess Who Brought A Gun To The Treaty Fight?

Negotiations begin tomorrow for a UN treaty that would track global arms sales and shipments aimed at stopping the flow of weapons into conflict zones. The NRA’s lobbyists have been working overtime recently to oppose domestic gun control legislation, but they are preparing to open up an international front to oppose this treaty. Though the lobby expects the treaty to pass at the UN, they are prepared to kill it when it returns home for ratification.

American history is full of examples of internationally minded, humanistic types coming up with good ideas for treaties—which the US Senate never ratifies. The classic example was Wilson’s Treaty of Versailles which set up the League of Nations. This one may very well be heading down the same well-trod path. Treaties take the support of a 2/3 majority of the Senate to be ratified, and there are almost certainly 34 senators to be found who are ready to stand with the NRA against the UN.

To an administration, doing things like this can appear to make sense: pander to the idealists and the Wilsonians, and get international brownie points for trying to go along with the ‘global consensus’. But this one could be a real loser: the belief that the Obama administration is trying in some way to give the UN control over Americans’ right to bear arms will galvanize the Jacksonian vote in 2014 in a big way.

Obama’s smart diplomacy and deft touch at co-opting his domestic opponents will surely smooth over any difficulties.