Little to say for myself

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Cluster Bombs

Being a woolly-headed liberal I have problems being forthright, one way or the other, about this article, which reports on the fact that cluster bombs are being exhibited at an arms fair in London.

Obviously I'm appalled at the prospect of children playing with unexploded bomblets and being killed or injured. On one level, any lethal weapon - something expressly designed, built and delivered with the intention of wounding or killing people - is abhorrent. And I accept that any weapon that carries a risk of causing death and injury, even after the end of conflict, is especially difficult to contemplate.

My doubts come when I consider the alternatives. There is of course the extreme view that there should be no armed forces, and that we should all live together in peace and harmony. All very well and good as an ideal, but just not currently applicable as a policy on this particular planet. So, given that our messy human natures require that there be at least the threat of armed force to protect civil liberty (in preference to spending our entire lives behind parapets), we have to ask what form this armed force should take.

There are no cuddly weapons. They are all terrible - from bare fists, knuckle-dusters and bayonnets, all the way up to nuclear weapons - all meant to do terrible things to people. All of them have the capacity to kill outright, both civilian and military, and they all have the capacity to maim and cripple. And they all have the capacity to do this on a huge scale, if deployed widely enough and for long enough. I don't separate nuclear weapons out from the others - they just achieve in a very short time what most other weapons could do eventually, and I don't regard timescale as being the crucial factor.

Also, while I agree that for a child to lose their life, or just a limb, to a bomblet or a mine is simply horrific, I think it's equally horrific for that child to lose a father or brother (who happened to be in uniform) to a "smart weapon", a well-aimed bullet or a machete. There will always be civilian casualties, whether they are physically injured or not.

The simple truth is that, if cluster bombs are banned, they will be replaced by something else that kills a lot of people over a wide area - because that's what fighting comes down to.

There is a tendency for the right-on amongst us to profess extreme opposition (if not outright hatred) for the companies that produce weapons, as if war is all their doing. I have to confess here that I work for a spacecraft company that is a subsidiary of a group that also produces military aircraft and missiles, a lot of which are sold overseas, so I have to admit to a vested interest. Although I work only on satellites used for civil communications and crap TV, my salary comes from an organisation that sells weapons.

However, when confronted by people who abhorr my complicity in the war machine (many of them teachers, health workers, welfare workers and other civil servants) I point out that, although I may work for an organisation that makes and sells weapons, they work for one that buys and uses them.

Campaigning for kinder weapons is aiming at the wrong target.

posted by Plig | 11:55 |

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Forget the sentimental notion that foreign policy is a struggle between virtue and vice, with virtue bound to win.
Forget the utopian notion that a brave new world without power politics will follow the unconditional surrender of wicked nations.
Forget the crusading notion that any nation, however virtuous and powerful, can have the mission to make the world in its own image.
Remember that diplomacy without power is feeble, and power without diplomacy is destructive and blind.
Remember that no nation's power is without limits, and hence that its policies must respect the power and interests of others.
Hans Morgenthau

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts
Bertrand Russell

The release of atomic energy has not created a new problem. It has merely made more urgent the necessity of solving an existing one
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