The chemical weapons convention and riot control agents : advantages of a "methods" approach to arms control
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Duke journal of comparative and international law, Vol. 22, no. 2, Winter 2012, p. 267-290
Analysis of how the CWC (Chemical Weapons Convention) affects how the U.S. may use RCAs (Riot Control Agents) in a war zone and compares the result to that from a more basic review guided by the principles of the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC)––a review grounded in the methods, rather than the means of warfare. The most significant differences between the means-based CWC approach and the methods-based LOAC approach are in the weapons available for use against combatants, not the impact on civilians. Nevertheless, the author does not advocate withdrawal of the U.S. from the CWC regime because history suggests that using chemical NLW (Non-lethal Weapons) on the battlefield may make war no more humane than before. However, the example of RCAs within the means-based CWC regime demonstrates the limitations and the unintended consequences of an arms control regime focused on the “means” of warfare. A more basic LOAC approach that focuses on the methods of warfare, rather than the means, may better balance the humanitarian interests than flat weapons bans. Thus, the U.S. should consider pursuing (1) new treaties to focus and elaborate on the rules governing methods of warfare rather than the means and (2) stronger internal reviews of new weapons systems around the world. By using widely-accepted standards, the international humanitarian system may prove better able to adapt to ever-changing technological realities.