April 13, 2007

Global Gun Control

Tom Barnett has an intellectual gem of an article on India that provoked two completely seperate riffs on my part. Here's the first.

India's now demanding to be allowed to continue testing nuclear weapons and the Americans (those gun control nuts--on the international level, that is)

Why would anybody think that gun control on the national level is bad while gun control on the international level is not bad? First of all, it's a misnomer because nuclear weapons aren't guns but rather ordnance which doesn't really have 2nd amendment protection. You've never had the right to bear bombs or rockets as a 2nd amendment right (though you can make a 9th/10th amendment argument for it). But individual rights and rights of states are an inexact mapping at the best of times so let's just go with the flow on that distinction.

Let's look at the full text of the amendment to see whether it's worth agreeing or disagreeing with Barnett on this one because taken literally, he seems to be advocating not only for an Indian bomb but also a North Korean one (to be clear, Tom's advocating regime change for the Norks so he's not really advocating for a Nork bomb).

Going back to the original text is always useful:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

But how would we rewrite this as part of a political ruleset for an international right to bear arms?

I think that the key entry is one that is not usually analyzed in terms of US political discourse, "free state". We don't really want tyrants to be well armed and it would be a worthwhile exercise to formalize that sentiment into a diplomatic position and let it permeate into the collective subconscious of the global power elite. Because India is a free state, our concern with the state of India's military should be that they maintain a reasonable level of protections so that their arms do not end up in the wrong hands under any circumstances.

North Korea, on the other hand, is decidedly not a free state and we should work whatever influence we can handle to defang the North Korean military to enable them to become a free state as soon as possible, by the best method possible. That they are also a proliferation nightmare, willing to strengthen the militaries of other non-free states is a separate, though equally disturbing, issue.

The realist fetish for arms control and balance of terror calculations in the US does not totally discount the distinction. Nobody calculates how many missiles we should have to deter the UK. Probably nobody calculates the nuclear deterrance of France either. But India is not in that club and there seems to be disagreement inside the US' halls of power as to whether they should be.

This internationalist restatement of the 2nd amendment is utterly alien to the UN system as well, with their polite/pernicious fiction that free states and tyrannies are equal in the international system. The UN has so far been incapable of intellectually dealing with the commonsense idea of bringing on new world powers like India into the 1st rank of powers by not standing in the way of their nuclear ambitions.

In the end Barnett's shot from the hip on India is right, though I think that he's getting there by a suboptimal path which leads to our continuing disagreements on Iran policy. But that's for another post.

Posted by TMLutas at April 13, 2007 11:21 AM