A hundred nations recently met in
Ireland and agreed to a treaty that outlawed cluster bombs. These weapons,
developed in the 1960s, use bomblets (from 88 in a 155mm shell, to 400-600 in a
bomb or rocket). The bomblets are basically anti-vehicle weapons with a
fragmentation effect that kills or injures most people within 20 feet of one
going off. The bomblets (also used in
cluster bombs) have a dud rate of about one percent (a decade ago, it was as
high as four percent). That means one percent do not explode when they hit
something. Some of these duds can explode later if picked up or stepped on.
That's a lower dud rate than for most munitions (which can be over ten
percent), but you can have thousands of bomblets dispersed over a few square
kilometers, leaving dozens of potentially explosive duds (whose self-destruct
mechanism might still go off). So you have a lot more dud munitions sitting
around on the battlefield, ready to injure your own troops and civilians. The
troops want to continue using cluster munitions because the bomblets are more
than three times as effective as weapons that just contain an explosive charge,
treaty, like the 1999 Ottawa Convention to ban land mines will largely be an
illusion. For example, nations with large stocks of landmines have, so far,
destroyed some 30 million of them. These include Italy (7.1 million landmines),
Switzerland (3.9 million), Britain (2.1 million), Germany (1.7 million), France
(1.1 million) and Japan (about a million). The ban on landmines was an attempt
to stop the use of landmines against civilians. This had become a problem in
the last three decades as China, Russia, and a few European nations, provided
rebel movements and participants in civil wars with large quantities of landmines.
These weapons were used largely to control or terrorize civilian populations.
This led to enormous civilian casualties. Soldiers are trained to deal with
landmines, civilians are not. The 30 million landmines recently destroyed by
the above nations were not intended for sale to for use against civilians, but
are now unneeded Cold War stocks that would have to be disposed of anyway. The
main suppliers of landmines to thugs (especially China) are still in business.
same thing with cluster bombs. Those nations who don't have these weapons, or
have some, but no opportunity to use them, sign the treaty. The U.S. refused to
sign both the land mine and cluster weapon treaties, being opposed to this kind
of feel-good hypocrisy.
nations sign, safe in the knowledge that, if there's a major war, they can
easily ignore the treaty, and start making and using the more effective cluster
munitions again. In war time, you do what you have to do. In peacetime, you do