The failure of the United Nations last week to reach agreement on an Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) despite years of preparation and an entire month of meetings during July, illustrates perhaps the only reason to keep this dysfunctional institution around: it is so utterly incompetent that it makes our governmental institutions look downright efficient by comparison.
The good news is that the ATT process failed to reach agreement on the terms of an arms treaty, and that at least for now, the matter is dead. The bad news is that neither this arms-control effort, nor any other of the many bad ideas emanating from the UN headquarters on the banks of New York City’s East River, is ever really dead. Much like Great Britain’s Fabian Society, which seeks to achieve incremental political goals by simply outlasting its opponents, the bureaucracy at the United Nations will simply re-group, schedule more meetings and present more “papers” about the dire need to rein in out-of-control international “trafficking” in firearms.
The United States played a decidedly ambivalent role in this latest rendition of “Keystone Kops at the United Nations.” President Barrack Obama had signaled three years ago that the US was reversing a decade of opposition to a formal UN firearms protocol such as the ATT, and would support the treaty process. However, given the timing of this ATT process in the middle of a tight presidential race – and the fact that anything smacking of gun control would likely cost the incumbent votes in November -- Obama is likely offering a quiet prayer of thanks that the ATT is a dead issue for the moment.
In the summer of 2001, when the UN’s foray into gun control was just getting underway, Washington took a very different approach. Under the decisive leadership of then-Undersecretary of State John Bolton, the U.S. made clear it would neither support nor allow to be adopted any international instrument that directly or indirectly infringed any constitutionally-protected rights. Throughout the administration of George W. Bush, Bolton proactively prevented the international body from formally adopting any such instrument.