Weapons of Mass Destruction: Restraining the Genie: Kennedy Graham Discusses the Issue of 'Compulsory Disarmament' and Global Legitimacy in Light of the United Nations' Response to the Problem of Iraq and North Korea

By Graham, Kennedy | New Zealand International Review, May-June 2003 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Weapons of Mass Destruction: Restraining the Genie: Kennedy Graham Discusses the Issue of 'Compulsory Disarmament' and Global Legitimacy in Light of the United Nations' Response to the Problem of Iraq and North Korea


Graham, Kennedy, New Zealand International Review


In the NZIR's last issue (vol 28, no 2), I noted that, in the short-term, the political legitimacy of any organisation, including the United Nations, has two dimensions--conformity with the law, and objectivity and consistency of policy. That article applied the criteria to the issue of Iraq and regime change.

In this article I will apply the same criteria to the possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Whilst 'coalition policy' has advanced multiple 'axis-of-evil' reasons for regime change in Baghdad, WMD disarmament was, through resolutions 687 and 1441, the Security Council's only possible reason for mandating such action. The current conflict in Iraq (as at 1 April) is generating confusion over the future role of the United Nations and even the structure of the international order. Once the dust settles and the passions subside, it will be necessary to address the twin problems of destructive weaponry and political mistrust that have adumbrated all global crises of the modern era.

Two fundamental questions are evoked by the existence of weapons of mass destruction: legitimacy of ownership, and legitimacy of enforcement policy. The answers to these reflect a more complicated analysis today than that prevailing only a few years ago. They now depend on whether one's 'world-view' is confined to the traditional realm of sovereign nation-states or whether it encompasses the 'global community' as a whole. The former responds to the logic of statecraft, however cynically prosecuted on occasion. The latter responds to cultural instinct, confronting moreover the spectre of WMD ownership by private groups.

In considering the legitimacy of WMD ownership, two questions are to be addressed:

* Does any state have the 'right' to own weapons of mass destruction?

* If so, is this norm applicable to all states or confined to a few; and if only a few, what criteria are to be used for distinguishing among states?

In considering the legitimacy of enforcement of whatever ownership policy results from the above, two further questions are relevant:

* What legal 'authority' exists for the Security Council to enforce WMD disarmament?

* What standards of objectivity and consistency can reasonably be applied in enforcement policy?

Ownership issue

Can ownership of WMD be justified through normative reasoning or is it simply the raw combination of technology and political determination? For half a century the great powers have been at pains to legitimise their selective nuclear weapon ownership on de jure grounds. Their attempts to do so encounter both logical and practical problems.

International society, underpinned by the UN Charter, is based on the rule of international law buttressed by the contingent application of force. But the Charter is silent on weapons of mass destruction, having been concluded twenty days before the first atomic test explosion. What it envisaged then, and still does, is a 'system for the regulation of armaments' at a level that will maintain international peace and security with the 'least diversion' of the world's human and economic resources. The Security Council is responsible for formulating plans for such a system to be submitted to all member states.

This has never been done and the Council has been derelict in its constitutional duty in this respect, given the importance of the issue and the attention it has given to the question of weaponry over the past decade. Yet in an indirect and ad hoc way the world is groping towards something of the kind. Whether the end result will be to the satisfaction of all remains to be seen.

Through multilateral conventions of 1972 and 1993 the international community has agreed to ban two of the four acknowledged weapons of mass destruction--biological and chemical. Despite imperfections of universality and enforceability there is no deep division within the international community over the legitimacy of these proscriptions.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Weapons of Mass Destruction: Restraining the Genie: Kennedy Graham Discusses the Issue of 'Compulsory Disarmament' and Global Legitimacy in Light of the United Nations' Response to the Problem of Iraq and North Korea
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?