As if one lingering unratifiable treaty weren’t enough, the U.S. may be negotiating yet another. The BBC reports that a UN global arms treaty to limit the illegal sale and spread of weapons is running into opposition both in Washington and abroad:
The US and Russia — among the world’s largest exporters of weapons — as well as China, have reservations about an international deal.The US has long opposed the inclusion of reporting ammunition exports in any text and China does not want small arms to be included. Both Russia and China have also sought restrictions to references to humanitarian law. […]On Thursday, a bipartisan group of 51 US senators threatened to oppose any agreement that infringed on the constitutional right to bear arms.
So not only does the treaty not have the required support from two-thirds of the Senate necessary for ratification; it doesn’t even have a majority. The truth is this treaty probably couldn’t be ratified by any conceivable U.S. Senate. Anything that involves, or appears to involve, the UN and arms control brings two Jacksonian bête noires together.What the US treaty process continues to lack is a way to work out these issues in advance of a big international meltdown. Somehow, the people in the State Department who negotiate treaties need to have better and closer connections with the people in the Senate who ultimately have to vote on them.Madeleine Albright used to spend a lot of time trying to get Jesse Helms on board for one agreement or another. Dean Acheson and Harry Truman worked very hard to get Republicans and conservative Democrats to go along as well. One key qualification of a Secretary of State is the ability to work with Jacksonian senators—not to agree with them on everything necessarily, but to understand how they think and to craft foreign policy, and especially treaty negotiations, in ways that don’t give us another train wreck like the International Criminal Court or the Law of the Seas Treaty.Secretary Clinton has learned a lot about forming these kinds of personal relationships, but clearly the process needs to go beyond just that. The process of consultation with the Senate on treaties under negotiation is a real weak spot in our system of governance.