War is a WMD

In today’s New York Times, a story mentions the use of cluster bombs in Ukraine by both the Ukrainians and the invading Russians:

Cluster munitions — a class of weapon comprising rockets, bombs, missiles, mortar and artillery shells — split open midair and dispense smaller bomblets over a wide area. The hazard to civilians remains significant until any unexploded munitions have been located and properly disposed of by experts.

The Convention on Cluster Munitions, which took effect in 2010, bans their use because of the indiscriminate harm they can cause to civilians …

Once again we have the issue of a weapon banned because it can kill so many people. Or because it kills civilians instead of soldiers. And yet bombs, rockets, and missiles kill hundreds in every battle, thousands in every war. So do the resulting fires, loss of habitat, and starvation. Isn’t it ludicrous to declare some of those weapons worse than others, to ban some but not all, to declare some illegal to use and by omission signal that others are acceptable? How many people have to die for a weapon to be declared illegal? Is it an acceptable weapon if it kills only ten people at a time, but forbidden as soon as it kills eleven? Can it be declared illegal retroactively if a dozen people die later from their wounds?

Back in 2013, as the US contemplated an intervention in Syria, I wrote:

Is killing hundreds with chemicals really more heinous than killing thousands with guns or bombs? Are chemicals really any more a “weapon of mass destruction” than bombs and rockets?

The question remains. Barrel bombs full of chemicals, thermobaric bombs, cluster munitions, rockets, missiles, grenades — all kill multiple individuals. Why declare only some of them banned or illegal? Why not all? What difference does it make to someone that their loved one was killed by a cluster bomb instead of a rocket or a grenade?

And why the designation “war crime”? Isn’t any war of aggression a crime? Why single out only parts of that war as criminal? Why is it okay to shoot someone but criminal to kill them with a barrel or cluster bomb?

All these declarations of war crimes and banned weapons strike me as just talk from those on the sidelines, onlookers not in the line of fire who, safe in their ivory towers, still want to appear thoughtful, relevant, and oh so concerned — who still want to “do something.”

Talk is cheap. So very, very cheap.

Banner photo: Ukrainian Armed Forces

20 thoughts on “War is a WMD

  1. We know this. War is insanity. For all we have learned about the universe, the earth and ourselves over the millennia, we remain unable to stop ourselves from hating and destroying each other. For what?

    1. Not so sure about love, but the essence of war is the abandonment of civilized behavior. That said, positing rules may bolster support for international sanctions. Let’s hope.

          1. It’s automatically generated for unrecognized sources. You must have been using a different device (or something) for your reply. I plugged in your name manually.

      1. The situation in Ukraine reminds me too much of how we let Hitler conquer most of Europe and didn’t commit our military to stop him until Japan (a German ally) bombed Pearl Harbor.  Putin has already established that we (the US and it’s allies) are afraid of him and that he will be able to continue his march over any country not protected by NATO.  I am ashamed.

        1. I keep thinking the same thing, how Hitler ran amok, etc. I literally weep when I see what what’s being done to Ukraine. I get angry when I think how much more we could help them. We could stop Putin in his tracks. But then I think about the nukes everybody has. And how erratic Putin is. And about Russia’s Chinese and North Korean allies … I am ashamed and angry and embarrased and frightened and I’ve no place to go with any of it …

          1. Last night I watched a show about Hitler (interesting that it should be aired now …) and throughout I was picturing Putin. Scary how well it tracked.

... and that's my two cents

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