Saturday, May 31, 2008

The world moves on cluster bombs

Earlier in the year, representatives from more than a hundred nations met in Wellington to hammer out a draft agreement to ban cluster bombs. On Thursday, in Dublin, they formally approved the resulting treaty. It will formally open for signature in December, and once ratified, will commit its members to "never under any circumstances" use, develop, produce, or sell cluster bombs, and to destroy their stockpiles within eight years. And once they have, the world will be a safer place.

The treaty will also commit its members to refusing to assist other countries to use or develop cluster weapons - a commitment which will have some interesting side effects. In an extraordinary act of statesmanship quite unlike the craven toady role played by his predecessor, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown has decided to back the treaty, and has ordered the UK military to destroy its cluster bomb stockpiles. He has also told the US to remove all cluster bombs from its bases in the UK. The Americans are unlikely to be happy at this blatant act of independence by a colony client dependency "ally", but there's not much they can do about it. The UK is a lot bigger than New Zealand, and a lot harder to bully into line. And on this issue, it has a lot of friends. Pretty much every state in NATO has signed up, and if they all ratify, the only place the US will be able to store its indiscriminate civilian-killing weapons is (typically backwards) Poland.