The unanimous vote by the United Nations Security Council on Sept. 27 for a resolution requiring Syria to give up its chemical weapons is a triumph for arms control over the use of force in dealing with international conflicts. More precisely, it is a triumph of arms control backed by the credible use of force that accounts for this peaceful outcome.
If Syria takes the next step and cedes control over its entire chemical weapons stockpile to the U.N., this episode in history will tell the story of how an international humanitarian crisis concerning the indiscriminate slaughter of innocents led to a major advance in 21st century arms control. In addition, this development will presumably lead the United States to take military strikes against Syria off the table.
Those who argue that arms control is a Cold War relic may think otherwise if Syrian President Bashar Assad lives up to his declared intention to give up his chemical weapons. Such an action by Assad would bolster the rhetoric surrounding the need to uphold international norms with action in ways that are almost uniquely supportive of the integrity of arms control.
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This op-ed was first published in the Christian Science Monitor on October 7, 2013
Photo by UN Photo/Shankar Kunhambu