Austin Bay

China, Russia, India, Pakistan and Israel reject the treaty, but America is the big rhetorical target. This is a legacy of the Cold War, when unilateral disarmers largely focused on the United States -- kicking America cost them zip politically, and they had no influence over Communist totalitarians. The United States, its critics to the contrary, remains the most benign global power that has ever existed, so piquant displays of self-righteousness by activists still have no downside.

"Feel good" flaunts rarely do any good in the killing fields. As for the argument that "the harder the war the harder the peace," it holds when democracies win. Agreed, continued suffering caused by unexploded ordnance isn't merely a continuing political problem but a lingering evil. This is why use of any explosive weapon ought to be judicious and rare.

Ultimately, the political drama -- with a degree of moral weight -- involves well-intentioned idealists, some decent-sort diplomats, scores of cynics and scads of liars.

Here's the big loophole: What stops Eritrea from using cluster munitions if Ethiopia threatens to break through (or vice versa). And what mechanism prevents Sudan's noxious government from using them against its numerous tribespeople in southern and western Sudan?

The answer? Why, the outrage of "the international community," of course. The same one that has been so effective in stopping genocide in Darfur.

I wish the idealists and the decent-sorts the best, and I support their efforts to remove unexploded munitions and compensate victims of cluster munitions. Yet I also think of Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, who told a gathering of cadets in 1879, "There is many a boy here today who looks on war as all glory, but, boys, it is all hell."

Even when fought with rocks, daggers and diversion dams.


Austin Bay

Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
 
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