Why are chemical weapons the "red line"

Discussion in 'Too Hot for Swamp Gas' started by channingcrowderhungry, Aug 28, 2013.

  1. channingcrowderhungry
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    channingcrowderhungry Well-Known Member

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    I was just having this thought as it relates to Syria. Why is the use of chemical weapons worse than the use of normal weapons? Is there something inherently more wrong with nerve gas versus mowing down a village with a machine gun or lobbing a few grenades or mortars at it?
  2. Row6
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    Row6 New Member

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    A good question and an arbitrary distinction in some ways, but ultimately speaks to the inherent indiscriminate nature of these weapons as opposed to ones you have to aim. Add to that how lethal they can be and I think the distinction is worthwhile. We addressed this as a civilization back in WWI, and mostly it has held.
  3. orangeblueorangeblue
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    orangeblueorangeblue Well-Known Member

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    At the same time it was really the *only* weapon of mass destruction (conventional bombs at the time were greatly limited in scope).
  4. gatordowneast
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    gatordowneast Premium Member

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    There were between 80,000 and 100,000 casualties in Syria...before the "most recent" chemical weapons attack. I guess those people don't count.

    Bottom line- Our allies no longer pay attention to Obama (they are building a coalition with or without us) and our enemies think he's a wuss. Therefore Obama is being goaded into "doing something". Perhaps he will call one of the new Marijuana pharmacies, buy some hootch and propose a "peace pipe" conference.

    He'll probably win 2 Nobel prizes for this. What a friggin joke.
  5. orangeblueorangeblue
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    orangeblueorangeblue Well-Known Member

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    You in the wrong thread, downeast?
  6. Row6
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    Row6 New Member

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    His response is always the same, no matter the thread.
  7. channingcrowderhungry
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    channingcrowderhungry Well-Known Member

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    I'm not sure they really are more indiscriminate than a standard bomb, mortar, or grenade. Most weapons are designed to kill (except for things like fragmentation bombs, etc.) so I'm not sure the lethality of the weapon matters much either. I suppose it is the ghastly nature in which chemical weapons do their job, but is it more ghastly than a flamethrower? Perhaps it is just the nature of the phrase "chemical weapons." It does sound terrible.
  8. channingcrowderhungry
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    channingcrowderhungry Well-Known Member

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    Perhaps it's be because, I suppose, a group of loosely armed rebels trying to overthrow those in power would probably have no access to chemical weapons, whereas those in power would be more likely to have said access?
  9. orangeblueorangeblue
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    orangeblueorangeblue Well-Known Member

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    This applies to almost any form of weaponry, though.
  10. Row6
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    Row6 New Member

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    You and ob are right on bombs, and I was reacting to your machine gun example without considering them. Bombing cities with an intention of killing civilians was practiced by us and others in WWII, though we have not repeated that recently.
  11. channingcrowderhungry
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    channingcrowderhungry Well-Known Member

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    Good point. So all that leaves me to believe is it is the nature of how chemical weapons work that drives the "red line"
  12. orangeblueorangeblue
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    orangeblueorangeblue Well-Known Member

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    I still believe this has largely to do with *when* it first happened, given it was the first indiscriminate weapon of mass destruction.
  13. channingcrowderhungry
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    channingcrowderhungry Well-Known Member

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    Yes. I suppose it's tough to talk in abstract about indiscriminate weapons. I'm sure some chemical weapons are very target specific while others are not. Same with conventional weapons.
  14. channingcrowderhungry
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    channingcrowderhungry Well-Known Member

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    Is a nuke a chemical weapon? I wouldn't think so.
  15. orangeblueorangeblue
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    orangeblueorangeblue Well-Known Member

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    No, not really. But a nuclear weapon is in no way technically different from a chemical weapon in effect.
  16. channingcrowderhungry
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    channingcrowderhungry Well-Known Member

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    True. Which further muddies the water for me of what constitutes the "red line" and why.

    Nuke=bad
    10,000 mortars = not bad


    Anyway, just a thought I was having on the subject. Appreciate the dialogue.
  17. tegator80
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    tegator80 Well-Known Member

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    I agree. Chemical weapons are a sort of junior grade nuclear weapon. We decided that the ancillary effect was not worth the strategic importance and so were banned. I guess in the nuclear age that premise is a little bit obsolete but it does get to a place that says you can defend your territory but WMD can not be used in an offensive manner. And since the players who are prone to use them are smaller than the major world players, they can be punished without too much damage to the enforcers.

    I guess that some of the earlier weapons also were gruesome deaths instead of a simple body mutilation (whatever that entails) and it wasn't war with dignity (again, whatever that means). So I am sure that they have refined things to be swifter and less agonizing. But war is hell and to try and make it civilized is kind of silly. I liked the episode in the original Star Trek where they came upon a system where they fought a "clean" war for hundreds of years and Kirk took it away from them. They were appalled by his brutish behavior but it made them realize that war and death is supposed to be ugly. Otherwise you can't get to real compromise, which has to be in the forefront of civilized society.
  18. orangeblueorangeblue
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    orangeblueorangeblue Well-Known Member

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    I think it's a totally noteworthy point. Maybe we should just count our blessings that *any* widespread killing mechanism is shunned.
  19. orangeblueorangeblue
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    orangeblueorangeblue Well-Known Member

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    Truthfully, is there any less "moral" method of killing someone in war than with a drone? It isn't even warfare at that point.
  20. tegator80
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    tegator80 Well-Known Member

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    I agree. When you take out the human element in war you are missing the prime reason behind the conflict: people who have fundamental differences. When you can sit in your ivory tower and are immune to the potential loss of life on your side, moral hazard WILL eventually raise its ugly head. It goes to why many people are against doctor assisted suicide. It is very possible that society becomes emotionally detached from the human condition in front of them. But going back to WMD, it is silly to think that science and technology isn't going to go places (see cloning) because it shouldn't. It does because it can.

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