Chemical Warfare: Never good but there could be a different outcome

On many levels this is out of my purview. However, in the early ’60’s I was an officer in what was then called the Chemical Corps. I spent the first year of my service running a chemical combat support platoon primarily stationed in Fort Ord, California. Then, clearly, I saluted somebody wrong, and spent two summers in the desert and the winter in between in Alaska and some other places testing various Chemical, Nuclear and Biological weapons delivery systems.  All of these were bad weapons.  I am not sure there is such a thing as a good weapon.

The Chemical Weapons Convention banning the use of chemical weapons (not biological) and calling for destruction of existing weapons went into force in 1997 after the initial discussions on the ban began in 1968.  Syria is not a signatory to the Convention.

I am not sure what a limited strike does to deal with this problem other than having, for sure, unintended consequences.  Also, are we simply saying that if conventional weapons had been used to kill 1400+ would we not care?  As I said, Chemical weapons are bad, and with a very few exceptions, the world agrees.

As opposed to more death and destruction as a retaliatory punishment, wouldn’t it make sense to use this time while Congress debates to present the fully documented case to the world, garner universal support against the use, universally demand  an apology and recompense from Syria to the families affected, and a promise not to use such weapons ever again? What is really in the interest of all in this instance? It is hard to believe that this was at the direction of Assad because of the stupidity of the action. If so, there needs to be the full mea culpa. However, if this was an attack generated and ordered within the military ranks, blame can be directed and action taken.

One cannot bring back the lives lost, nor for that matter the 100,000 lives previously lost.  However, why not turn this action into a reason for reaching a political solution as opposed to a continuation of the bloodshed using whatever weapons are available or provided.  It is in some ways an opening for the Assad regime.  More military action involving more participants will not have a good outcome.  This approach will surely sound naíve and wimpy to some.  It is one person’s viewpoint.  The killing by whatever means needs to stop.

This entry was posted in General Interest and tagged , , , , by Jack Rivkin. Bookmark the permalink.

About Jack Rivkin

Jack Rivkin retired in 2008 as EVP, CIO, Head of Private Asset Management of Neuberger Berman(NB) and from NB's Executive Management Committee. He was also on the Lehman(LB) Council on Climate Change(CC) and the NB CC Fund Advisory Board. He has been engaged with the United Nations and other entities on policy issues related to Private Capital and CC. He is an Associate Fellow of the Asia Society. He has continued on the NB Mutual Fund Board and with his CC responsibilities. He began his investment career in 68 as an analyst at Mitchell Hutchins(MH), and became Director of Research(DOR) there. After Paine Webber(PW) acquired MH, he served as DOR; CFO of PW; CEO of PWMH-the equity trading and investment arm of PW; Chmn of MH Asset Management and President of PW Capital. 87-92 he was DOR and, subsequently, Head of the Worldwide Equities Division of LB. 93-95, he served as a Vice Chairman and DOR at Smith Barney (now Citigroup). He was an EVP with Citigroup Investments 94-01, responsible for private equity investments. He was also an adjunct professor at Columbia University teaching a course in Security Analysis. He joined NB in 2002. He is the co-author of “Risk & Reward—Venture Capital and the Making of America’s Great Industries,” Random House, 1987. He is a regular guest on various media. He is the principal subject in a series of Harvard Business School cases describing his experience as DOR and Equity Head at LB. He has served as a director of a number of private companies and the NYSSA. He is currently a director of Idealab, Dale Carnegie, Operative, World Policy Institute and other private companies. He is a member of the Economic Club of NY, the Anglers Club, Theodore Gordon Fly Fishers, and a lifetime member of Trout Unlimited. He continues to be an active private equity investor when he isn’t fly fishing. Mr. Rivkin earned his Professional Engineering degree from the Colorado School of Mines and his MBA from the Harvard Business School

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