An expansive explosive radius equals higher ‘kill probability’ - PART II

, by Nico Segers

An expansive explosive radius equals higher ‘kill probability' - PART II
Protest against Cluster Bombs

Will cluster munitions be repelled after the entry into force of the CCM Treaty prohibiting their production, storage, and use?

The perverse ‘instruments’ of a handful of sadists disguised in suits?

Some refer here to the obvious hand of the powerful defense lobby, which is true up to a point. The continued efforts to design and develop weapons systems creates and sustains jobs, so strictly economically speaking the cluster munitions industry too is a mere ‘asset’ in terms of employment. But for most democracies nowadays, the utterly ethical considerations outweigh the strategic benefits to use them.

The continued efforts to design and develop weapons systems creates and sustains jobs, so strictly economically speaking the cluster munitions industry too is a mere ‘asset’ in terms of employment.

Since the ink dried on the [?Convention on Cluster Munitions] (CCM) final proposal text, 104 states have signed it. Note that the Big Three are entirely absent from the picture. So have the defense lobbyists won their battle over Congress in the U.S., in Iran, North Korea, China and Russia? The issue is more complicated. Most activists will indicate that these countries have waged war so often with an arsenal of cluster munitions, that they’re terrified of the disposal costs or civil lawsuits (compensation filings) they are facing once the treaty is applicable in full.

The Convention does refer to clearance of submunition duds to minimize the number of future civilian casualties. Yet the idea of having signatories applying the Treaty ‘retrospectively’, as to clear also the duds present before the time the Treaty enters into force, boiled down to a mere ‘encouragement’. There is as yet no authority to penalize signatories who refuse to clear cluster particles and remnants used in earlier conflicts effectively. Whether normative pressure suffice is closely tied to the question if the European Union is willing to stand firm and close its ranks.

Laos is literally infested with the remainders of cluster munitions that were dispersed over the country in an effort to root out the VietCong supply bases during the Vietnam War. It was a part of hidden strategic policy (yet adding to the logic of Richard Nixon’s ‘Christmas bombings’) that still haunts Cold War era diplomats and Pentagon pundits.

New Zealand gave more hope to advocating organizations like Handicap International by ratifying the treaty by the end of December 2009, significantly reducing the threshold for the CCM to become commonly accepted binding international law down to one more step. When on 16th of February 2010 the representative chambers of Burkina Faso and Moldova followed suit and ratified the Convention as well, they wrote legal history. Many described it as a milestone in anti-war (cruelty) legislation, emphasizing the fact that common sense and humanity can eventually prevail over a mere interest to make the trade of war just a bit more effective. But have these cheers not been a bit premature ? Aren’t we just facing the tip of the iceberg here? Surely, one merely needs to mention UAV’s, laser-guided bombs, IED’s, chemical and radiological weapons to prove otherwise.

Encouragements on paper only solve part of the problem, nations will continue to employ lethal or more sophisticated arms

It still remains quite astonishing that it took 15 months for some 30 nations to formally adopt the Convention, since the ratification became open for signature in Oslo in December 2008. That may even seem long to us, but if one considers the general amount of legislation any nation has to deal with annually, along with other domestic regulatory concerns plus arrangements to tackle the financial and economical crisis, the overall effort and resolution of those committed states to hit the mark is quite laudable. Bear in mind that, regardless of the fact whether a particular nation is a signatory to the treaty, in the domain of international law the CCM is binding, as from the 1st of August 2010. As of March 2010, already 104 countries have signed the treaty. It is natural to ask then: Why didn’t the 74 countries that signed didn’t put ratification just as serious on the agenda? One could argue that the baseline averse opinion of 100 countries acts sufficiently to stigmatize major cluster arms manufacturers and marketers. The fact many U.N. agencies participated actively in the genesis adds a normative and paralegal layer to it.

While eight members of the European Union didn’t come to the ratification part yet, there are in fact eight member states that decided not to sign the Convention at all: Greece, Poland, Finland, Latvia, Estonia, Slovakia, Romania, and Bulgaria. Particularly these countries stand out because of their eastern location near or bordering Russia and the CIS states. Finland and Greece might appear more curious, yet it’s not my intention to venture into the details. Just like Norway and Sweden, Cyprus has signed the convention, regardless of long-lasting discontent over occupation and disputes with Turkey. This is not a very ‘unified’ signal coming from the EU, considering the Union’s collective (?) emphasis on peace, prosperity, human rights, freedom of want, abstention of torture and intentional physical damage. Isn’t the refusal to close down on manufacturers of cluster bombs similar to consenting to a ‘postponed’ form of eventual collateral torture?

Isn’t the refusal to close down on manufacturers of cluster bombs similar to consenting to a ‘postponed’ form of eventual collateral torture?

I honestly cannot answer this question why a clear majority of EU member states did not pull the same cloth on such a critical issue, touching upon fundamental ‘European’ values. Critics will say that ‘signing’ is just as much as giving it a clear sympathy support, but ratifying is the moment where nations are putting their money where their mouth is. The reality is likely more complex, and hampered by domestic preference games, constraints concerning potential reputational face-loss, bargaining and basic ‘politeness’ (as in: refraining from overtly intimidating the other signatories to expedite their domestic ratification processes).

The need for the EU to speak univocal and avoid another mockery of the ‘common’ foreign and security policy

So far, Albania has been a remarkable front-runner in the demolition of the stockpiles and reported in December 2009 that it had no active cluster munitions left on its soil that could do harm. Little over a dozen other countries have followed suit. That means there is in theory still some six months left for all countries to slow down and terminate cluster munitions’ production. It is quite unlikely that all nations will eventually comply to this request. As long as the programs run and it can be used to deter civil insurgents, terrorists and soldiers, it will remain a tough job for the EU Court of Human Rights to issue an indictment towards any high-ranked military officer who will likely argue that the use of cluster munitions is arbitrary to review under military law, and refute the application of international law.

Time for those eight other EU members that did not sign to fix the broken mirror and vouch their full support for the abolishment and clean-up of these semi-dormant killing devices and embolden the ‘soft’ normative power of the EU to its fullest potential. Without over-emphasis on distinct nation-bound responsibilities, and not springing from the root of naivety that marked the Briand-Kellogg Pact in 1928. Achieving a genuine and specific common position to apply appropriate proportionality to weapons systems is what the EU owes to the sake of peace, humanity and nonproliferation. That in itself is less absurd than to insist on settling for ‘more humane’ warfare systems in the future.

Achieving a genuine and specific common position to apply appropriate proportionality to weapons systems is what the EU owes to the sake of peace, humanity and nonproliferation

Image: Protest against Cluster Bombs, source: flickr commons gabriele capitini.

Your comments

pre-moderation

Warning, your message will only be displayed after it has been checked and approved.

Who are you?

To show your avatar with your message, register it first on gravatar.com (free et painless) and don’t forget to indicate your Email addresse here.

Enter your comment here

This form accepts SPIP shortcuts {{bold}} {italic} -*list [text->url] <quote> <code> and HTML code <q> <del> <ins>. To create paragraphs, just leave empty lines.

Follow the comments: RSS 2.0 | Atom