YouTube: https://youtube.com/watch?v=Bvh1slwtcHI
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Duration:03:43
Uploaded:2013-09-13
Last sync:2018-05-10 06:40
In which Hank discusses a question that keeps popping up...why is it OK for governments to kill people with guns and tanks and cluster bombs...but not chemicals?
Okay... let's have a quick conversation about chemical weapons.

It seems completely logical right, that killing people and killing people is the same? Doesn't matter how you're killing them, if you're killing them, then that's wrong. But that's not how international law actually works - you're allowed, as a leader of a government, to kill your own people. So its okay, you know, to drop a cluster bomb on a neighborhood that's housing rebels but its not okay to drop chemical weapons there. Why?

So first, the actual objective, non-abstract reasons.
1. Its extremely painful.
2. It kills entirely indiscriminately 
3. It is way too convenient because you kill only the living things and none, you know, don't destroy any of the infrastructure and that's just too powerful a weapon.

But here's the big non-objective reason, which I think is just as important. We tend to think of things that existed when we were born, as the norm. When guns were first introduced to Japan, Japanese soldiers refused to use them because they saw them as inhumane and crazy and, like, it was okay to slice someone's abdomen open with a sword, but to shoot them from you know, a 100 feet away and just watch them fall over, that was seen as completely immoral. 

So, what happened is that the world got together and started to make worldwide laws, at a time when chemical weapons were not yet the norm. Now, if this had happened after chemical weapons had been the norm they'd probably would be okay, which would be a worse world, to be clear. But because they were new and they were unusual, and also particularly terrible. And also, to be clear, because we could, because they're different enough that we can say "This is what a chemical weapon is and we can ban the use of that".

The big fear was when biological and nuclear and chemical weapons were introduced, these things that we call "Weapons of Mass Destruction" - not that they are any more destructive or, like they can be or sometimes they don't necessarily have to be. We knew how to strategize around guns and tanks and missiles and bombs. We didn't know how to strategize around chemical and biological and nuclear warfare - that changed the situation so dramatically that all of the big world governments that were in power could say "No! Let's not do that. Let's never ever do that because that will change the bal... has the potential to change the balance of power in ways that would be really volatile for everyone, especially the people in power."

Now, I'm not saying that because the powerful people did this, somewhat in self-interest, it means that its a bad thing. Its not, it is wonderful and beautiful that our world, in general, has decided that indeed, its not okay to use these weapons. That is a great step in the right direction.

And when that "norm" as they call it, because they don't want to call it a law because there are lots of international laws, some of which the United States regularly breaks like attacking a sovereign state all the time in the Middle East, to you know, extract Osama bin Laden, to upset al-Qaeda terrorist cells like we do, we break international law, "international law" pretty regularly. Just owning chemical weapons is against international law but the international norm is against using them and when that norm is violated, as it was in Syria, that needs to be taken very seriously. And if that sounded like a pun, I apologize. Syria-sly... oh man, god, end the video now. I said what I came to say.