Peacekeeping: More Feel-Good Hypocrisy

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June 3,2008: 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,

The new 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.

It's the 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.

Some user 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 likewise.

 


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