With all the news about Syrian President Bashar Al-assad’s use of chemical weapons and US President Obama’s decision that a “red line” had finally been crossed, The Economist explains why international taboo and uproar over chemical weapons use is, while obviously not justified, is somewhat irrational in comparison to other ways of mass killing. Even Adolf Hitler refused to use them.
Chemical weapons are insidious and ghastly, yes, but so are all sorts of other ways of killing and wounding—and many of those other ways are a lot harder to defend people against.
International condemnation of chemical weapons to World War I, and can help explain part of why we don’t like so fervently them now. However, “the history of chemical weapons is largely a history of occasions on which they have not been used”.
No one is complaining that we should be more tolerant of chemical weapons, and it’s great that the world is united against at least one type of weapon (other than nukes), but the history behind it is a fascinating one.