Cluster bombs are bad news. Small bomblets packed into artillery shells explode over a target, spewing golf-ball sized mini bombs far and wide. The problem is, not all of the bomblets explode on impact. Some are duds. And much like landmines, the unexploded sub-munitions lay dormant until disturbed. If a child, for example, picks up an unexploded bomblet it may blow up in her face. Like landmines, cluster bombs continue to kill and maim long after hostilities have ended.
So far, efforts to control the use of cluster bombs have been disregarded by the United States, which argues for their military utility. But the United States government may have just had a change of heart. The Associated Press reports today that the American delegate to the UN Convention on Conventional Weapons, which is meeting in Geneva this week, has agreed to participate in negotiations on cluster bombs. American officials have said they are not seeking an outright ban, but are open to regulating the use and manufacture of cluster bombs. This, at least, is an improvement over a previous policy of simply ignoring international efforts on cluster bombs.