Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Cluster Bombs and Thinking about War

Weapons are created to kill people. As long as people kill one another, there will be weapons around with which to do so. Yet some weapons are deemed nastier than others, and their use less legitimate. Some weapons disappear because they are superseded by more lethal ones, but some, occasionally, are banned for their nastiness, and then they either disappear or don't. Now that I think of it, I can't name a single weapon that was ever totally disused merely because it's nasty. Still, the attempt to somehow moderate warfare is a good idea, so people who try seriously to do so should be commended. (The pacifists and the closet pacifists, who are against killing under any condition, are less admirable as I've pointed out here).

This week there seems to be some international convention to ban the use of cluster bombs. What are they at all? Here's the Wikipedia article; and here's a factual and cool-headed article from The Guardian. The need for this convention - are you sitting? - is that at the moment, there is nothing in international law that bans their use.

Given that the context of the discussion is international, and apparently just about everyone uses cluster bombs, these articles don't single out Israel; indeed, it appears that there are worse culprits than Israel, countries like the USA and UK, for example. So when the Israel bashers concentrated in 2006 on Israel's use of cluster bombs in Lebanon, perhaps they weren't being fully balanced in their criticism. Who knows. Maybe they weren't even being detached and objective. If you read the Guardian piece carefully you might even note that the Israeli-manufactured version, the M35, is actually comparatively benign. Comparatively, of course.

None of which stopped the editor of the Guardian from illustrating the article with a picture from Southern Lebanon. Oh well.

Thinking this through has led me to a different question, regarding the discussion of war in the democracies. There is no end of criticism of the American (and British) decision to go to war (what's known as the Jus ad Bellum question). When you look closer, however, you'll notice that there is practically no intelligent discussion of the way those democracies wage the wars they're in (the Jus in Bello question). Of course, oceans of ink have been spilled on Abu Ghraib and on Guantanamo, but those are side issues far from the field of battle. What do we know about the use of air power and artillery in the present campaigns? When may American troops open fire, under what conditions, and how does the practice measure against their standing orders?

Israeli society discusses how its wars are waged all the time, and the public that does so is well informed and intelligent. Apparently this can't be said of anyone else. On the contrary. Discussing the nuts and bolts of waging war, besides being beyond the ability of most people in just about all countries, is also shunned for fear it would be seen as disloyalty to the troops.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The United States of America must retain its democratic right to possess and use cluster-bomb weapons. They are extremely effective in killing terrorists as well as future terrorists i.e. children and teenage malcontents.

It is the lie-beral Left and Communists who want to disarm America in this long strugge for freedom.