The overwhelming majority of commentary in the United States on the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) has focused on the possible risks it poses to rights protected under the Second Amendment. There is nothing wrong with being watchful on this front, but the ATT raises broader concerns for U.S. foreign policy.
Indeed, the ATT is inherently flawed simply because of the beliefs on which it is based and the process by which it is being drafted. Here are five reasons why.
1. Equal Rights to Democracies and Dictatorships
Any conceivable ATT, simply because it is being negotiated through the U.N., will be based on recognizing that all members of the U.N. are equal and sovereign states and thus have equal rights. The inevitable result of this, in the context of the ATT, will be a treaty stating that Iran and Venezuela have the same rights to buy, sell, and transfer weapons as do the U.S. and Japan. The U.N. already contains far too many dictatorships; negotiating a treaty that enshrines their equality of status in the realm of arms transfers is inherently a bad and dangerous idea.
2. Nations Do Not Want Higher Standards
Any nation is free to set its own standards for the import, export, and transfer of arms. If the nations of the world genuinely want higher standards, they can have them right now. The fact that they do not means that many of them are not negotiating the ATT in good faith. And that, in turn, means that the treaty will not constrain them after they sign it. The idea that there is a vast illicit arms trade in the world is a myth: Most arms trafficking is done with the knowledge and the connivance of governments, which describe it as illicit to conceal their culpability (or, on occasion, their administrative incapacity). The U.S. should never negotiate, support, sign, or ratify treaties that are based fundamentally on a lie.