Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | July 22, 2012

Will Obama sign the Arms Trade Treaty?

[Readers, this post was to go up on Friday, but there was a posting problem at the Hot Air site, and I held this post until that was corrected.]

The UN-sponsored Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) is being negotiated and finalized this month.  Adding spice to the proceedings is the election of Iran – yes, Iran – to the 15-member governing body overseeing the treaty draft.  Who wouldn’t want Iran coming up with ways to control America’s trade in arms, after all?

Kim Holmes of the Heritage Foundation critiqued the extant draft of the treaty in the Washington Times on 11 July, pointing out, essentially, that its language will work to the advantage of whoever has the most popular cause in the UN.  Russia and China, for example, could justify all their arms sales under the category of national security, whereas the US could be charged with “keeping conflicts going” by selling arms to Taiwan or Israel (or Japan or the UK, for that matter).

She also makes the case that the mere existence of the treaty, even if the US Senate doesn’t ratify it, will provide a ready slate of off-the-shelf provisions for Congress to incorporate into US law.  Other commentators have pointed out that Obama could, in theory, sign the treaty and develop executive-agency enforcement procedures against the US arms industry and American gun-owners, which Congress would have difficulty preventing.

Executive “initiative” has been a common practice of the Obama administration, and in the case of the drilling moratorium, was adhered to in the face of court orders to cease and desist.  A great deal of the traditional strength of checks and balances has been undermined during the Obama administration.  It is sensible to be concerned about unilateral “enforcement” of the Arms Trade Treaty by the Obama executive.  Court challenges might well not be dealt with before the end of Obama’s term.

Heritage analyst Ted Bromund testified at the Arms Trade Treaty Conference on 11 July, making the following points:

Supporters of the ATT argue that we need it to raise national standards on the import, export, and transfer of arms. But if any nation wishes to raise its standards, it is free to do so now. The fact is that many U.N. member states have neither the desire nor the ability to raise their standards. A treaty will not compel or enable them to do so.

The U.N. Security Council has adopted embargoes against the shipment of arms to particular nations. It has called on all U.N. member states to eliminate the supply of arms to terrorists. These embargoes and resolutions are regularly violated.

The ATT’s proponents claim that this is why we need the ATT. But it is a fantasy to believe that a universal ATT, backed by nothing more than the words of the treaty itself, will succeed where the Security Council, backed by the authority of Chapter 7 [of the U.N. charter], has failed.

The ATT will not limit the ability of terrorists to acquire arms. The reason for this is simple: The U.N. has never defined terrorism, because some member states insist that terrorist groups like Hamas are struggling against so-called foreign occupation.

A key point from both Bromund and Holmes is that the treaty will merely be an excuse for selective, politically motivated attacks on some member states (and possibly populations, such as US gun owners).  The treaty’s consequences will depend entirely on how it’s enforced, since none of its meanings or definitions is precise or ironclad.  Iran, for example, on being elected to her new dignities, promptly clarified (euphemistically, but intelligibly) that the Arms Trade Treaty should not restrain Iran’s ability to acquire nuclear weapons.

This is an idiotic treaty: one which our enemies could use to claim – before the World Court, presumably – that the US is promoting violence and instability, but which will not be interpreted to restrict the kinds of weapons radical Iran can buy or sell.  Indeed, Iran’s position seems to be that the treaty should “urge member states to avoid resorting to any kind of aggressive measures against other member states,” which would be well outside the purpose or scope of this treaty, and suggests that separate political motives are the main thing going on with Iran’s participation in drafting it.

Maybe we can trust Russia and China not to sign up for this thing.  At any rate, as a practical matter for American life in the next six months, the question for us is what Obama will do.

I find it hard to predict.  Obama has gone so far from the mainstream of US politics in the last year that it’s hardly out of the question that he might sign the treaty at the end of the summer, and perhaps even implement enforcement measures of some kind in the US.  I doubt that such enforcement would include the “nightmare” gun-grabbing scenarios described at many websites; I think it would probably be limited to increased regulation of firearm manufacturers and vendors, at least for now.  But Obama has doubled down on a lot of things that most Americans would have considered unthinkable four years ago.  It’s not credible to insist that he wouldn’t take executive action unilaterally.

But it’s still a question.  Practical politics says you don’t provoke gun owners just before your next election.  The National Rifle Association is still one of the handful of groups that can seriously clobber the halls of government with a citizen outcry.  I’m not sure anything would galvanize voters as much as Obama signing the Arms Trade Treaty; not only could it determine Obama’s fate in November, but it could well affect the outcomes in Congressional and state races as well.

It’s an important question how well Obama understands the firestorm, and the reaction from other branches and levels of government, that he would stir up by signing the treaty.  The right to bear arms is one of the very few that citizens still generally interpret the same way, can locate in the US Constitution, and – whether they are for it or against it – understand to be a uniquely American guarantee.

I believe the meaning of our Second Amendment rights is more solidly understood by the populace than even our right to freedom of religion.  Only the freedoms of speech, press, and religion – and the right to remain silent – are as sacred and identifiable to most Americans as the right to bear arms.  I know Obama and his advisors move in a climate of urban-elite leftism, but it would be remarkable if they were so out of touch as to dismiss the electoral significance of appearing to override the Second Amendment.

The administration hasn’t even made a concerted public case for the treaty – an onslaught of soundbites and narratives – as it has with other plans for regulation like Obamacare, “net neutrality,” and environmental regulations.  Maybe it has felt that that would be impolitic.  If so, perhaps that excellent instinct for political self-preservation will induce Obama to shelve this one until after the election.

What say you, readers?

J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at Hot Air’s Green Room, Commentary’s “contentions,Patheos, and The Weekly Standard online.

Note for new commenters:  Welcome!  There is a one-time “approval” process that keeps down the spam.  There may be a delay in the posting if your first comment, but once you’re “approved,” you can join the fray at will.


  1. No pasaran muchachos. Déjelo para después de las elecciones.

    Viva Zapata…err…Obama!

  2. And, now, we have the movie theater shooting and Bloomberg (R-NY) shouting for more draconian controls. (in R-NY the “R”, by the way, identifies that person as a REPUBLICAN. Now, isn’t that a knee slapping funny joke…?).

    In any case, will these coincidences never cease…?

    Best to all (not including any socialist, communist or left leaning independent moderate, and other top-floating scum out there – you know who you are…).


    • Amici… he’s a registered Independent… His political party is the Radical Chic Patrician Party. The letter of the alphabet next to the sewer over which he rules is only to allow him ballot access.

      Party has nothing whatever to do with it… at all. Bloomberg is a scold, an imperious odious Nauncy Boy putz… If he doesn’t like it here so much, he should scoop up his trust fund and move out of the country. No one needs him here, anyway.

  3. IMO, Obama’s behavior conclusively demonstrates that he is an ideologue. He places ideology above pragmatism. He’ll sign the treaty and then, through executive orders and directives to regulatory agencies, seek to enforce it.

    • Yup. And his patron Soros will make sure that his fellow minion, at the head of Club Senate will stall any votes (for which it will not receive the requisite 2/3rds…) Once the Senate votes.. it’s over. That is why the One Worlders have stalled the vote in the Senate for the LOST fiasco for so long.

      But yes you are correct, look for The One to do his master’s bidding. Ernst Stavro Blofeld never looked so real.

      • Sorry to make waves but UNCLOS is in the American interest.

        • JGets… no treaty with one’s enemies/adversaries/annoying neighbors/nasty relatives..etc. is in one’s interest; ever… unless it’s terms of their unconditional surrender to you.

          Never surrender any sovereignty at all ever under any circumstances. It is national suicide.

          I agree with Ronald Reagan; but I might be a little more blunt about it. “Nothing happens on any ocean on this planet without my say-so.” Of course, nobody is going to elect me “Mostly Benevolent (unless you tic me off) Dictator of the Known and Unknown Universe for Eternity” so I won’t be running anything anytime soon. 😉

          But in general it is never a good idea to agree to allow the rival gang to dictate where and when you go on your own turf…


          • I mentioned UNCLOS for the shock value.
            This is a big one TMF, I’m not gonna get into it till I brush up on my arguments. Probably take me about a year 🙂

          • PS
            On UNCLOS related matters,

            Seems like China has found an opportunity to pick on Vietnam and the Philippines in the South China Sea.


            I always knew driving Russia into the arms of China would be contrary to our interest somewhere down the line, but that’s just a personal view.

            Maybe Optcon would do us the honor of following up on the Tumultus Post-Americanus piece? (if her book work allows it course).

  4. OC, I hope and pray that you are correctly envisioning some restraint on the part of BHO and his minions, but I am unwilling to place a bet (at this time) against his signing it. More will be revealed …..

  5. While I am sceptical that this treaty will accomplish much, the one thing it won’t do (and can’t do – read the treaty provisions) is affect the arms trade within the US or any other signatory-nation.

    You will all be reassured to learn that this treaty (if we acceed to it) will not in any way hamper the inalienable right of US criminals, the deranged, and even the delusionally paranoid like the Opticon, from buying all the high-caliber automatic weaponary their lil’ ol’ hearts desire. (and I absolutely agree with the NRA argument that if we banned these things it would only result in mass killings being carried out with kitchen-knives instead of machine-guns)

    By the way, the main purpose of this treaty is to give us some internationally enforceable legal structures for dealing with international arms traffickers – You know, the nice folks who arm the drugs cartels and terrorists. I would have thought that we in the US would have every reason to want to strengthen the sanctions against arms trafficking.

    Ah yes, yet another concocted controversy by the Opticon.

    (p.s. I hear that our beloved Mexican candidate, Lord Mitt Romneycare, is on his way to the UK to be photographed with the British PM. Presumably, this is to show the punters back home that Romneycare is a SERIOUS foreign-policy player. Wonder what they’ll talk about? Cameron supports universal health-provision, global warming, and gay-marriage (and the ATT). Even more hilarious, during his visit Lord Romneycare is hosting a fund-raiser for Republican-sympathising, UK-resident, hedge-fund-managers and investment-bankers. The bash was originally to be hosted by the disgraced LIBOR cheat and sacked chairman of Barclay’s Bank, Bob Diamond (Who has stepped aside lest he remind the folks back home of the sort of people Romneycare consorts with)

    • Arm the drug cartels? Arm the Mexican drug cartels? You are talking about our Department of Justice there, Paulite. Best be careful.

      • I’m always careful. However, it’s a pity the geniuses in Justice weren’t.

  6. Including iran is cool…. The more those slimeballs get up and castigate, the more that they make fools of themselves and alienate the world’s decent people………

    Always great to see the Heritage Foundation and the opticon demonstrating their lack of faith in the marketplace of ideas……

    small minds think alike.

  7. We’ve got to stop this treaty cold.

  8. So if the US signs this treaty, or any other treaty, then it’s for real, forever, right? Like Brest-Litovsk or Molotov-Ribbentrop or the Anti-Cominterm Pact?

    • No. Not necesarily. But, to declare this particular sort of “for the children and the peace of mankind” treaty null and void sometime in the future, we would have to move to a galaxy far, far away first or we would have to find, elect, discover, invent, create or whatever a Congress with gonads and I don’t think that would be possible, looking at the current stable of dung ingesting politicians or at the general direction things are headed…

      National pride, patriotism, autonomy and all that other old fashion stuff, probably invented by a bunch of sexist, white, racist homophobes, will be reserved only for inter-region of origin soccer games… 🙂


      • I had assumed that you had already moved to “a galaxy far, far away”

  9. I know I’m off message but Romneycare has fallen flat on his face on the first day of his triumphal ‘Romney the Statesman’ parade through Europe and the Middle East. He has done much worse than remove a rather tasteless bust of Churchill from the Oval Office. He has managed to insult our closest ally (and draw a swift rebuke from PM Cameron) by making disparaging comments about the organization of the London Olympics. The British press is full of indignation, and Romneycare is recanting and apologising in equal measures (nothing new, then…)
    Can you imagine this bumbling idiot in charge of US foreign policy?

  10. OMG, it gets worse.

    Romneycare went ahead with the ex-pat bankers fund-raiser. Now the British press has revealed that several of his fat-cat dinner-chums are under active investigation by the financial regulators over the Libor scandal and the mis-selling of financial products.

    And worser…….

    Romney inadvertantly revealed that he had a secret meeting with the head of Britain’s intelligence service. It’s not secret any more.

    God help us if we have a collective brainstorm and he gets elected.

    • “God help us if we have a collective brainstorm and he [Romney] gets elected”

      You mean like the collective brainfart that elected Obama? Something like that…?” Could happen. Remember, we also elected Carter at one time. Every and anything after those two “statesmen” should be seen as an improvement.


  11. What say us is that this treaty will be signed by Obama and life in the United States as we know it immediately cease.

    Before the end of July, it’ll be used to impose Sharia law upon the world and Obama will swap Oklahoma for Okinawa.

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