Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Cluster Truck

In Oslo today, some 100 countries began signing a treaty against cluster bombs. The Convention on Cluster Munitions bans all production, transfer, stockpiling, and use of cluster munitions, which operate by spreading numerous anti-personnel bomblets across an area. The argument for the ban is that the munitions cause too much collateral damage, since many bomblets do not detonate immediately, and thus pose a long-term threat to civilians who enter what was once a battlefield.

While it is undoubtedly true that that problem is a real one, signatories of the treaty fail to take into account the fact that cluster bombs are still the best weapon against enemy forces in trenches—the bomblets can bounce into them. And in fact, the munitions were used to great effect by the U.S. in Iraq against dug-in Republican Guard troops, as well as by Israel against entrenched Hezbollah soldiers in the 2006 Lebanon war. In the latter instance, Israel was severely attacked by international opinion since its military targets were supposedly too close to civilian areas, but when it comes to the treaty, the fundamental question is not whether cluster bombs were used ethically in any particular instance, but rather whether they can be used ethically at all. In an ideal world, all cluster bomblets would defuse quickly, and thus pose less of a humanitarian threat, but until that technology is available, it seems reasonable for countries to be permitted to use them responsibly. This is why the U.S.—along with China, Russia, India, Israel, Pakistan, and Brazil—oppose a total ban. Unlike most of these countries, few of the 100 countries signing the treaty anticipate having to fight trench warfare anytime soon.

A similar logic undercuts the Ottawa Treaty, much loved by Western Europeans, which completely bans all anti-personnel landmines. Does anyone think that South Korea would be safer were it not protected from its northern neighbor by a belt of one million landmines?


Join the discussion…

Are you a subscriber? Log in to comment »

Not a subscriber? Join the discussion today, subscribe to Commentary »





Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.