The Failed Cluster Bomb Treaty: The Perfect Continues to be the Enemy of the Good

by Julian Ku

So talks on a new cluster bomb treaty have collapsed due to the refusal of countries party to the 2008 Cluster Bomb Convention to sign on to a less restrictive treaty that would have included the U.S, Russia, China, India and other key military powers. 

The draft treaty was vigorously promoted by the United States and had the backing of other major users and producers, including China, India, Israel and Russia. It reflected the increasing stigmatization of a weapon recognized as causing unacceptable harm to civilians and seen as having lasting effects on development for decades after conflicts have ended.

The effort was rejected by a group of 50 countries from Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America, including many nations that had signed on to the 2008 Oslo Convention. The Oslo agreement imposed a comprehensive ban on the use, production, stockpiling and sale of cluster munitions.

The United States argued that the draft treaty, which would have banned the use of cluster munitions produced before 1980, presented an opportunity to regulate the major users and producers of the weapons that hold an estimated 85 percent of global stockpiles but had not joined the Oslo Convention, including the United States

So we are left with an extremely restrictive cluster bomb treaty that doesn’t reach 85 percent of the world’s cluster bombs, and we reject a less restrictive treaty that would have a wider much more effective reach.  I get the idea that international law has an important expressive value, but surely practical reach has got to considered at some point.

http://opiniojuris.org/2011/11/29/the-failed-cluster-bomb-treaty-the-perfect-continues-to-be-the-enemy-of-the-good/

4 Responses

  1. “However Steve Goose, Director of the Arms Division at Human Rights Watch, argued that the 30-plus-year-old weapons had either ‘already reached or are nearing the end of their shelf-life and would have to be destroyed anyway,’ adding that most munitions used in the past decade — by Libya, Thailand, the U.S., Russia, Georgia, Israel, and the United Kingdom — were produced after 1980.” (http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/article2663108.ece)

  2. It is a shameful episode that undermines the legitimate forum for conventional arms control. The U.S., China, Russia, et al. will never, ever sign the CCM, yet those countries in favor of that convention did everything in their power to prevent the adoption of a CCW protocol that would have got all the world’s major cluster munitions producers into a framework agreement. They got their way. Congrats! Now get back to fundraising on the win!

  3. “So we are left with an extremely restrictive cluster bomb treaty that doesn’t reach 85 percent of the world’s cluster bombs, and we reject a less restrictive treaty that would have a wider much more effective reach”

    The treaty SHOULD be extremely restrictive. The problem here is not that countries are refusing to relax a legitimate position; the problem is that the US is refusing to ban a weapon that threatens so much civilian life.
    The “much more effective” and “practical reach” you suggest would not stop this: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/yemen/7806882/US-cluster-bombs-killed-35-women-and-children.html

  4. Such a conservative and pro-government stance…You say: “surely practical reach has got to considered at some point”.
    Yes. But “practical reach” also means that we only want treaties that actually have the potential to practically change something. Rather than nice PR instruments of those governments that are unwilling to join solid treaties but still want to be seen as promoters of the good, while they continue to export, invest and employ cluster munition.

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