This week the Senate will vote on ratification of the Chemical
Weapons Convention (CWC). The vote will be a defining moment for
this venerable institution to see if it will carry out its
constitutional role properly in safeguarding the country's
The Clinton Administration, with its allies and surrogates in
the arms control community, has exerted immense pressure on the
Senate leadership, and for a time it looked as though the CWC was
headed for approval. But CWC opponents have focused the debate
effectively on the convention's egregious flaws, and now the tide
seems to have turned. Opponents and supporters of the CWC now agree
that the prospects for ratification are no better than 50-50.
The outcome of the CWC vote will depend largely on the actions
of Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS), and on 10 or 12
undecided Senators, mostly conservative Republicans. If he cannot
muster 34 votes to resist this unprecedented assault on American
liberty, sovereignty, and national security by the Clinton
Administration--including the possible illegal use of federal funds
for direct lobbying of Congress--it is difficult to imagine on what
other issue he and conservatives in the Senate could be expected to
WHY WOULD CONSERVATIVES VOTE FOR THE CWC?
In speaking with Senators who remain undecided on the CWC, a
pattern emerges. Their responses can be aggregated and distilled
down to a few basic reasons for remaining undecided or for leaning
toward an affirmative vote on the CWC. Unfortunately, these reasons
do not stand the test of rigorous analysis. The following are the
most common of the faulty reasons.
Faulty Reason #1: "My constituents
don't care about the CWC."
This is mostly true. Americans in the heartland are not
clamoring for ratification of this treaty. It is also true that the
vast majority of voters respond affirmatively when asked the
open-ended question, "Do you favor a treaty that would end the
global threat of chemical weapons?" And who would not? Americans of
every party and persuasion abhor chemical weapons. This is why the
United States ended its chemical weapons program unilaterally, and
will spend billions of scarce defense dollars to destroy its
But many Senators in the undecided column have concluded that,
because their constituents do not care about it, the CWC is not
worth falling on their swords. But that is exactly the wrong
conclusion to reach. If constituents are indifferent, why agree to
ratify it? Senators voting against the CWC are not likely to suffer
a political penalty at home, any more than the Senators who opposed
the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT) II back in the
1980s--especially because, in this case, there is a credible
alternative, S. 495, the Chemical and Biological Weapons Threat
Reduction Act, which passed the Senate on April 17. A vote for S.
495 certainly will immunize Senators against the baseless charge
that they are "in favor of poison gas."
Moreover, the CWC represents a startling new dimension in arms
control. In the past, arms treaties were a matter between
governments, and the only Americans affected were perhaps workers
in weapons programs that were ended or scaled back under the
treaty. But now, for the first time, in an unprecedented fashion,
arms control will reach inside the United States and touch
individual Americans in ways one cannot possibly foresee.
Constituents will come to care, greatly, and with growing anger,
when the CWC inspector shows up and demands an exhaustive look at
their plants, their products, and their files and databases.
Indeed, the word is starting to filter out to the voters that
the CWC may affect them in the following ways:
- It will jeopardize their constitutional rights.
The CWC undermines the Fourth Amendment right against
unreasonable search and seizure. True, the Clinton Administration
was compelled to agree to compromise language of Senators Lott and
Jesse Helms (R-NC) that was not in the CWC's original inspection
provisions. Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons
(OPCW) inspectors now will have to obtain a criminal search warrant
for challenge inspections not agreed to by the targeted company or
organization, and an administrative search warrant for routine
inspections not agreed to. Companies under contract with the U.S.
government, however, which presumably would include a large number
of firms targeted for chemical inspection, would not have the right
to object and could be subjected to warrantless searches.
The CWC also undermines the Fifth Amendment protection against
the taking of private property for public purposes without due
compensation. Businesses are subject to having their physical and
intellectual property, including proprietary data and trade
secrets, seized by chemical weapons inspectors without
- It will impose a costly new reporting and regulatory burden
on U.S. businesses.
The direct and indirect costs of United Nations (U.N.)
inspections, including the time and expense of filling out forms
and the possible costs due to loss of proprietary data, could be
enormous. The CWC contains three lists, or "schedules," of chemical
agents and precursor chemicals subject to the treaty. The U.S.
Department of Commerce estimates that businesses subject to
inspection will need from 2.9 to 9 hours to complete the reporting
paperwork for each chemical it handles, depending on its schedule
classification. When Americans learn just how intrusive and costly
this burden could be, support for the treaty drops
Under Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, treaties duly
ratified are part of the "supreme Law of the Land." Ratifying a
treaty thus should be considered a matter of great import. The
presumption should not be automatically in favor of a new treaty,
especially one as sweeping and uncertain in its impact as the CWC,
unless the American people are demanding its ratification
Faulty Reason #2: "I'm not interested
in foreign policy. Other issues are making more important demands
on my time."
As part of the supreme law of the land, a treaty should be
considered as carefully as a constitutional amendment--especially
because the U.S. government, which operates in a highly legalistic
and litigious culture, has a tendency to bind itself more tightly
by treaties than is necessary. In effect, the American way of arms
control has spawned a new doctrine of "unilateral imposed
obligation." U.S. arms control officials often find ways of
complying with treaties that were never intended, seeking
emanations and penumbras and limits that are not in the plain
In the case of SALT II, the United States complied with it for
years even though the Senate never consented to ratification. But a
more dramatic example is the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM)
Treaty with the former Soviet Union, which prohibits the United
States from deploying an effective defense against strategic or
intercontinental ballistic missiles.
The acolytes of arms control call the ABM Treaty the "crown
jewel of arms control." The Clinton Administration says it is the
"cornerstone of strategic stability." The arms control
establishment has pursued observance of the ABM Treaty doggedly,
despite material breaches of the treaty by the Soviets, even to the
point of self-imposed limits on U.S. defenses against shorter-range
or theater ballistic missiles, which the treaty was not intended to
cover. The arms control community and the Clinton Administration
are invoking the ABM Treaty to impede the most promising new
sea-based and space-based theater missile defenses (TMD). This form
of excessive and unnecessary treaty observance leaves U.S. forces
and allies overseas vulnerable to the proliferation of advanced
theater ballistic missiles among rogue regimes like Iran, Iraq,
Libya, and North Korea. These states may also possess or be
developing chemical, nuclear, or biological weapons with which to
arm their missiles.
It is true that Senators have many items on their agenda and
many demands competing for their time; and, regrettably, the CWC is
complex. It requires a fair amount of study and analysis to
understand its full ramifications. But the CWC is a serious matter,
potentially part of the supreme law of the land, and cannot be
responsibly dismissed on grounds that Senators are too busy or
uninterested. Would Senators approve a constitutional amendment
they had not read and fully understood?
Faulty Reason #3: "It won't hurt, and
perhaps it will help."
When the Utopian claims and grandiose rhetoric of the President
regarding the CWC are stripped away, this is the essence of the
Administration's case for the CWC: that it will not hurt and it
might help. This reason tempts some Senators faced with what they
believe will be a tough vote. Although it may appear to be an easy
solution, it is fundamentally in error; and the error is
The first error is that this thinking implicitly accepts the
Clinton Administration's claims. Senators, however, should ask
themselves first: Why should they accept the President's word on
this issue without question?
Even if this Administration had a better reputation for
truthfulness, its assertions on behalf of the CWC do not meet the
test of sound analysis or even common sense. For example, on April
18 the President made the incredible statement that the United
States "will be joining the company of pariah states" if it does
not ratify the CWC. But failing to sign a piece of paper that even
CWC supporters concede is largely symbolic does not make the United
States a "pariah" state. Conversely, signing such a document does
not convert an outlaw state into a law-abiding and civilized one.
It is blatant demagoguery to suggest otherwise.
The President should have considered the case of Iraq before
making such an irresponsible statement. Signing the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) did not make Iraq a responsible
member of the international community. In fact, Iraq actually used
its membership in the NPT to circumvent International Atomic Energy
Agency inspections and conceal its nuclear weapons efforts.
Civilized nation-states are characterized by observing
international norms and behaving in an enlightened and responsible
manner. Joining or not joining the CWC will not change that
fundamental truth. When it comes to chemical arms, the United
States is not a pariah, but is, in fact, leading the way. As
mentioned above, the United States will spend billions to destroy
its stockpile of chemical weapons and is not manufacturing any more
chemical agents. Statements like this one show the fatuous and
shallow reasoning emanating from the White House.
The second error is an error of fact. The CWC may actually make
matters worse, and in the following ways:
- It will create the illusion that the global threat of
chemical weapons has been solved, and enshrine self-delusion and
wishful thinking as national policy.
The intelligence community concedes the CWC is neither
effectively verifiable nor enforceable. It does nothing about the
chemical threat of rogue states that do not join. Moreover, rogue
states that do join actually may use CWC membership to learn how to
conceal their chemical weapons programs, just as Iraq used
membership in the NPT to cover its secret nuclear weapons program.
Indeed, chemical weapons are far easier to manufacture and conceal
than nuclear weapons. In a still dangerous and volatile world, the
United States cannot afford to base its security on falsehoods.
- It will lead to complacency and neglect of U.S. chemical
defenses as the Pentagon reallocates its shrinking budget
elsewhere--because the CWC will have "taken care of the chemical
The chemical defense gear in use by U.S. troops today is
becoming outdated. It will not counter the threat of new chemical
weapons, for example, the novichuk agents reportedly under
development in Russia (in violation of U.S. expectations under the
U.S.-Russian Bilateral Destruction Agreement).
- As the effectiveness of U.S. chemical defenses inevitably
declines, the risk of chemical weapons use by a future adversary
actually will increase.
The United States is eliminating its chemical weapons arsenal,
as already discussed. This means the United States will have no
credible means to deter a chemical attack by responding in kind; it
can only defend. But Pentagon spending on chemical
defenses--improved protective masks and suits, improved detection
devices and antidotes--is already in decline, due in large part to
anticipation of the supposed benefits of the CWC.
- It will open, rather than close, the door to proliferation
of chemical warfare capabilities.
Under Article X, states parties are required to share chemical
defensive technology with other members. Rogue states who have
joined in bad faith thus would gain access to U.S. chemical
defenses. And Article XI requires cooperation among states parties
in the peaceful use of chemicals, in effect, facilitating trade and
transfer of chemicals among members, again including rogue regimes
that have joined in bad faith.
- It will spawn a costly and intrusive new U.N.-style
bureaucracy, the OPCW, without a commensurate benefit in
In fact, the CWC appears to be the leading edge of the Clinton
Administration's globalist agenda, which is surrendering piecemeal
U.S. sovereignty and constitutional safeguards. The CWC symbolizes
the Administration's commitment to big government, but on a global
If Senators think the CWC is better than nothing, they had
better review these and others flaws in the CWC, which suggest that
it will not make the chemical threat better, but worse.
Faulty Reason #4: "I feel like I have
to support arms control and get the arms control establishment off
Senators who are contemplating a vote against the CWC need not
feel any debt to the arms control establishment, a
self-aggrandizing elite whose delusions and falsehoods have harmed
rather than enhanced U.S. security. Arms control as practiced by
today's elites is the mentality of welfare-statism writ large and
applied to foreign policy. It does on a national scale what welfare
does locally and individually. It kills responsibility and
initiative by attempting to make others--the U.N. or multilateral
entities or treaty partners--responsible for U.S. security and not
Americans themselves. In so doing it also undermines the
sovereignty of the country just as welfare does to families. It
leaves the United States defenseless at home and U.S. troops
overseas in danger in the same way welfare leaves families and
individuals demoralized, weakened, and in state or permanent
dependency and near-poverty.
If the Senate agrees to the ratification of an unverifiable and
unenforceable treaty like the CWC, it will give undeserved
legitimacy to the arms control delusion and open the floodgates to
a spate of new treaties, equally unverifiable and unenforceable.
The CWC will legitimize arms control agreements of any type. At
least the old days of "trust but verify" paid lip service to
verification, compliance, and enforcement (although, in reality,
the United States seldom followed through). But the CWC represents
an abandonment of "trust but verify" in favor of "blind trust," and
ends any pretense to verification and compliance.
Approving the CWC will not placate the arms control crowd and
get them off Senators' backs. It only will whet their appetite for
more such agreements. If the CWC goes through, the Senate will have
no principled or rational basis to oppose the blizzard of arms
control agreements proposed at the recent Helsinki Summit,
- The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which will push
forward the Clinton Administration's de facto denuclearization of
the U.S. strategic deterrent;
- The Land Mine Ban, which will deprive shrinking U.S.
ground forces of needed defenses in conventional land warfare;
- Revisions to START II and ratification of START III,
even though Russia has not ratified START II and appears unlikely
to do so in the future; and
- Relief from the "flank limits" of the Conventional Forces in
Europe Treaty for Russia, making it easier for an irredentist
Russia to threaten its former possessions in the "near
Like the CWC, most of or all these proposed agreements will be
unverifiable and unenforceable. But if history is any guide, even
when violations are detected, the myrmidons of arms control will
suppress any evidence that their precepts are not working. They
will do anything to keep the process going so that the process
becomes the end in itself, divorced from reality and from the end
of securing U.S. strategic interests. But the Senate has the
obligation to safeguard U.S. security, and that security is
inconsistent with the failed and fraudulent dogmas of arms
Faulty Reason #5: "It's the Senate's
job to ratify treaties; why not ratify this one?"
The Senate's treaty-making role under Article II, Section 2, of
the Constitution is not to rubber stamp a treaty simply because the
executive branch proposes it. Senators must understand and recover
their proper constitutional role in consenting to the ratification
of treaties, a function that embodies the principle of checks and
Individual voters do not have the time or the expertise to study
proposed treaties and make a judgment. This is why they elect
Senators and send them to Washington: to act, in effect, as their
fiduciary agents; and to protect them from bad agreements that
would leave them vulnerable or intrude on their liberty (or both).
Every Senator has a solemn moral as well as political obligation to
study, analyze, and subject the claims of the arms control
proponents to close scrutiny, and make sure the proposed treaty
truly serves the interests of the United States and the American
people, and not just the narrow interests of the arms control
elites. The Clinton Administration is pursuing an arms control
agenda that is out of control. It is up to the Senate to impose a
little sobriety on behalf of the American people.
Faulty Reason #6: "I'll be severely
criticized if I don't vote for the CWC; they'll say I'm in favor of
Yes, they will. Unfortunately, a vote against the CWC will
generate a flurry of criticism from Washington pundits. But
Senators have several ways to counter this criticism. One is the
vote for S. 495 on April 17. Another opportunity is the vote on the
full Helms Resolution (Executive Resolution Number 75), which will
come to a vote first under the Unanimous Consent Agreement
propounded on April 17. The Helms Resolution contains 33 revisions
of the objectionable features of and serious flaws of the CWC.
Another defense from criticism is the good offense--to be able to
expose the false claims of CWC supporters and its negative impact
on U.S. citizens.
It is incredible to think that the most conservative Senate in
recent memory, led by the most conservative majority leader in
decades, actually could approve the worst arms control treaty since
1972 (when the United States ratified the ABM Treaty).
Perhaps some Senators have been swayed by the President's
agreement to reorganize the State Department, as Senator Helms has
been demanding during negotiations over bringing the CWC to a vote.
But State Department reorganization is too cheap an exchange for
such a flawed treaty. To Senator Helms's credit, he has been
advocating these changes for a long time. But they should be
implemented anyway. At the same time, it has to be acknowledged
they will not alter U.S. foreign policy fundamentally. The White
House already has said it will not cut back on State Department
positions and spending. The same people will be in charge of the
foreign policy apparatus, and policies at the Arms Control and
Disarmament Agency and the Agency for International Development
will not change because the organizational chart has been redrawn.
To seize on this deal as a justification for approving the CWC is
like the homeowner who is preoccupied with changing a few shingles
on the roof while the foundation is being undermined and the entire
house is crumbling.
The American people are not clamoring for this treaty. There are
only two constituencies that the Senate will be gratifying if it
agrees to ratification of the CWC: the Clinton Administration and
the arms control establishment.
If economic and social issue conservatives in Congress can end
welfare as we know it, with its vast and deeply entrenched
constituency, then cracking the arms control monolith should be at
least as easy. But first someone has to be brave enough to stand up
and say, like the hero of Hans Christian Andersen's fable, that the
emperor is naked.