Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Ban Cluster Munitions

I've never been enthusiastic about non-violence. It seems to me that non-violent and violent action both have their time and place. Civil disobedience alone wasn't going to free China from the Japanese, France from the Nazis, Algeria from the French, or Bosnia from Serb Nationalism. I feel the same way about disarmament. A world without nuclear weapons is a great idea. A world where 5 countries maintain a stranglehold on this power and can leverage it against everyone else is a bad idea. "Go, Iran, Go!" but that's an argument for another day.

I am nevertheless supportive of the Cluster Munition Coalition, and the current Dublin Conference on banning these weapons outright. This is a video produced by HRW on the issue:

What makes cluster bombs different from, say, artillery shells? Morally, the difference might not be that great - many militaries (including our own Canadian one) would still rather bombard a village with artillery than risk the lives of its soldiers going in. You can then excuse your cowardice with the phrase "collateral damage." The problem is the scale upon which the cluster munitions permit this to occur and the complexity of the devices. Unlike the conventional shell, the cluster munition has to survive the initial deployment explosion but still detonate at ground level. If they don't spread out, it's just like any other bomb. Since you can drop them en masse, instead of firing them individually, true "carpet bombing" becomes much more feasible.

The obvious criticism of such conventions is the same that was applied to the Ottawa landmine convention - that the people who actually use the weapons won't bother signing on, and won't abide by it once the convention is in effect. For the countries who do sign on, though, it's an affirmation of the principle and an additional disincentive towards procuring the weapons. That by itself is valuable.

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