If any weapon deserve to be banned, it seems that so-called “cluster bombs” fit the bill. A description from The Washington Post:

The weapons consist of canisters packed with small bombs, or “bomblets,” that spread over a large area when a canister is dropped from a plane or fired from the ground. While the bomblets are designed to explode on impact, they frequently do not. Civilians, particularly children, are often maimed or killed when they pick up unexploded bombs, sometimes years later.

Despite the bombs’ deplorable after-effects, the United States opted not to sign onto an agreement to ban the weapons. I’m not sure which justification is less defensible: that cluster bombs are a valuable part of the U.S. military’s arsenal (they have not been used at all in over five years) or that banning them could somehow hinder the U.S.’s disaster relief efforts.

Likewise, the fact that the other major users and producers of the bombs — Russia, China, Israel, and Pakistan — also did not sign the treaty does not seem to warrant retaining cluster bombs for defensive reasons. That said, there may still be hope for curbing the use of these munitions. Remember: the United States also did not sign the 1997 ban on landmines — and that has not inspired it to join the lonely ranks of Burma in planting the deadly devices. Perhaps, though, it’d be better to just sign both treaties and come out against weapons that mutilate and kill children.

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