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The global horror at Syria's alleged use of chemical weapons means that, even short of of a strike, it would take a peculiar leader to judge that he could follow suit without risking sanctions, military attack, or loss of legitimacy and isolation. In other words, the world has already helped reinforce the taboo on chemical weapons, and it can continue to do so through other acts of condemnation.
Here, a team of American and European scholars makes one of the best efforts yet to identify the norms of hegemonic and great-power responsibility by examining three “problem areas” in contemporary world politics: nonproliferation, climate change, and international financial regulation.
Today, it is taken for granted that using chemical weapons -- as the Assad regime has reportedly done -- is uniquely intolerable. Observers have speculated that humans simply harbor a particular fear of them or that militaries have never considered them useful. In fact, the proscription is the result of decades of international work.