Let them eat gas: The negative consequences of the Chemical Weapons Convention.
The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) came into force on 29th April 1997, the result of years of hard work by those who have recoiled at the terror and indiscriminate damage that chemical and biological weapons have been capable of since World War 1. Attempts to limit the scope and use of such weapons have existed since the 1925 Geneva Protocol, which explicitly prohibited the use of chemical and biological weapons in war. 
However, the Geneva Protocol had been poorly enforced, and was riddled with significant shortcomings; it did not prevent the development, production, or stockpiling of chemical weapons, nor did it protect states that had not signed up to the protocol. Indeed, many states simply ignored the protocol, with the best example being the American use of Agent Orange in Vietnam. Indeed, the US was able to circumvent the Protocol by defining Agent Orange as a herbicide, rather than a poison, thus excluding it from the remit of the Protocol. This argument was upheld in a 2005 US court ruling. 
However, broadly speaking, the same problems have not fallen at the door of the CWC. The success of the organisation tasked with overseeing the enforcement of the Convention, the imaginatively named Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), led to it being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in December 2013. 
Despite the absence of a number of countries from the organisation, including North Korea, Egypt, Israel, and Myanmar/Burma, (the latter two having signed, but not ratified, the Convention) experts have been generally positive in their assessment of its progress. According to Ahmet Üzümcü, the Director-General of the OPCW, 98% of the world’s population lives under governments signed up the Convention. 81.71% of the world’s declared stockpile of chemical agent have been “verifiably destroyed”, as well as 57.32% of chemical munitions and containers. 
By most accounts, the CWC has been a success. However, it has also stifled the development of what could possibly be one of the most revolutionary advancements in modern warfare; the anaesthetic bomb. The theory behind an anaesthetic bomb is simple – instead of dropping a dangerous chemical such as Agent Orange or nerve gas over an enemy population, army, or non-state combatant, one would drop an anaesthetic gas over the area that would cause the enemy to fall asleep. From this, a small task-force would be able to advance peacefully towards an enemy, disarm and constrain them, and end the conflict without a single fatality. Indeed, due to the non-lethal effects of anaesthetic, it could also be used on terrorist cells or rebels who insist in using civilian populations to protect them from fire.
This would revolutionise the concept of warfare since it would relegate violence from an inherent feature to an unfortunate outcome; an anaesthetic bomb would bring with it the potential for a deathless war. Beyond this clear positive, there would be numerous wide-ranging benefits and spill-over effects; economically, conflict-ridden states would not face the demographic burden of a significant loss of the young male population. Socially, the lack of loss of life would reduce the discontent between loser and victor due to the lack of destruction of one by the other, making long term group rivalries or retaliatory attacks less attractive. Additionally, it would allow a second chances to those caught in enemy forces (through rehabilitation programmes or skills training that would enable them to get a job, rather than relying on membership of an armed group as a basis for economic security). Furthermore, sleeping foes would have their weapons seized and confiscated, which would reduce the amount of arms held by non-state actors, reducing their future threat.
Of course, there are issues with the policy. There is always the danger that the user of anaesthetic weapons would abuse their power when faced with a snoozing enemy; however, war crimes happen with conventional weapons, and so to ban anaesthetic weapons on these grounds is unjustifiable. Furthermore, this problem could be mitigated by entrusting only UN Security Council backed forces with the use of anaesthetic weapons.
There are also issues of human rights; civilians should not be placed under threat of being gassed to sleep when going about their day-to-day life – indeed, it could be dangerous to do so. However, this is far outweighed by the alternatives; the two most common alternatives would be street-to-street heavy combat or indiscriminate drone attacks, both of which pose more significant risks to civilians; in 2009, drone strikes in Pakistan have killed roughly ten civilians for every one militant. 
Thus, there is the potential for the use of anaesthetic weapons to fundamentally change how conflict is played out. Although this potential is merely theoretical at the moment, it is ironically hamstrung by the very success of the CWC; by prohibiting chemical weapon development to prevent loss of life, it is prohibiting chemical weapon development that could prevent loss of life.
Of course, one could argue that an anaesthetic chemical weapon would not constitute ‘weapon’, since a chemical weapon is usually defined as “a device that uses chemicals formulated to inflict death or harm on human beings”.  However, this would run contrary to the CWC’s definition of a ‘toxic weapon’, which is “any chemical which through its chemical action on life processes can cause death, temporary incapacitation or permanent harm to humans or animals.” (emphasis added). 
Instead of sneaky and underhand semantic debates, the way forward for proponents of the anaesthetic bomb is to encourage an open, honest dialogue about the potential of anaesthetic weapons to act as the as the foundation of a new type of conflict; the peaceful war.
Written by David Jeffery. Edited by Simon Renwick
 1925 Geneva Protocol, United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, http://www.un.org/disarmament/WMD/Bio/1925GenevaProtocol.shtml
 Memorandum, Order, and Judgement MDL No. 381, United States District Court Eastern District of New York, http://www.ffrd.org/AO/10_03_05_agentorange.pdf
 OPCW eyes total chemical arms ban, Khaleej Times, http://www.khaleejtimes.com/kt-article-display-1.asp?xfile=data/international/2013/December/international_December306.xml§ion=international
 The Chemical Weapons Ban: Facts and Figures, Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, http://www.opcw.org/news-publications/publications/facts-and-figures/
 Do Targeted Killings Work?, Brookings Institute, http://www.brookings.edu/research/opinions/2009/07/14-targeted-killings-byman – for later figures, see http://natsec.newamerica.net/drones/pakistan/analysis
 Chemical Weapon, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chemical_weapon
 Article II. Definitions and Criteria, Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, http://www.opcw.org/chemical-weapons-convention/articles/article-ii-definitions-and-criteria/