As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Cluster Bomb Breakthrough

Gordon Brown hasn't had a great couple of months, but he showed some backbone today and greatly improved prospects for an international ban on cluster bombs.

In a major diplomatic defeat for the U.S., Britain broke ranks Wednesday and joined more than 100 nations in agreeing in principle to an international ban on cluster bombs, the small, insidious weapons that have killed thousands of civilians in the aftermath of battle.

Though the Bush administration has lobbied hard against the treaty and many U.S. and British officials consider cluster bombs valuable weapons, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown overruled elements of his own military and threw his support behind the prohibition. Brown's decision cleared the way for an agreement that supporters said would lead to the removal of cluster munitions from arsenals around the world.

Most interestingly, the convention not only prohibits the use and stockpiling of cluster bombs among signatories, but it calls on any nation conducting joint military operations with a non-signatory to "actively discourage use of the weapons." With Britain on board, that will have an impact on the United States regardless of what a future President and Congress do with the treaty (for example, these have been used in Iraq).

Cluster bombs are a truly hideous by-product of modern warfare, canisters that open upon ejection and pour a series of "bomblets" across a wide area that are meant to explode on impact. However, up to 25 percent do not, creating minefields that kill hundreds or even thousands of civilians wherever they are deployed.

But while a ban on these weapons would be a major human rights victory, it is more reflective of the waning credibility of the United States under Bush. It would have been unthinkable a few years ago for a stalwart ally like Great Britain to break with the US on a diplomatic issue such as this. But Brown is in trouble domestically, and may have seen such a split as a political cure-all. It's not only McCain who wants to show his independence from Bush. Moreover, here is the United States, on the wrong side of a human rights issue YET AGAIN, lining up with China and Russia and using technicalities like "China and Russia don't support it, so we won't" to justify their behavior. Which is essentially saying that "We don't think this effort will succeed until you bring users of the weapons, like us, to the table."

How many foreign policy failures from this Administration can you name off the top of your head? Because you can add this one.

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