Saturday, September 14, 2013

I Am Completely Befuddled

Trey Smith

Today it was announced that Russia and the US had brokered an agreement on the chemical weapons in Syria.
The United States and Russia on Saturday reached agreement on a plan that would end Syria’s ability to produce chemical weapons by November and would destroy all materials that could be used to make such weapons in the future by the middle of next year.

The milestone agreement, laid out in four pages released after two days of talks, calls for President Bashar Assad to detail the location and nature of his country’s weapons within a week, “including names, types, and quantities of its chemical weapons agents, types of munitions, and location and form of storage, production, and research and development facilities.”
While I applaud this plan, I am completely befuddled by the time frame. In an article I shared in a post on Wednesday, Handing Over Chemical Weapons: What Does This Really Mean?, it is reported that the US houses 523 metric tons of chemical weapons at the Blue Grass Army Depot in Kentucky -- Syria is believed to have 1,000 metric tons -- and current plans call for these weapons to be destroyed by 2023. We have been working for years to build the facilities to accomplish this mission and said facility won't be operational until 2020.

This is where my confusion comes in. If it will take the US nearly another decade to be in the position to destroy our chemical weapons cache at this one location -- there is, at least, one other location in the US that still holds chemical weapons too -- how is it that we can say that the Syrian tonnage can be safely destroyed in only one year's time? Put a different way, why will it take the US 6.5 time longer to dispose of one-half of the amount?

If the technology exists to get the job done within one year, why don't we employ that same technology here? Our pledge was to have the job done by 2012 and we are still a decade off from meeting our obligation.

If somebody understands how and why the Syrian time frame makes any sense, I would appreciate an explanation. Would you also explain to me why the time frame works for Syria and not the US?

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