Day by Day



10 July 2008

It's a Cluster...


Not really, actually the new DoD policy on cluster munitions is reasonable and well stated.  Cluster munitions are very effective against TIO (troops in the open) which includes perched atop a roof in an urban environment.  What is of most interest in this commentary is the unmistakable involvement of the DoD JAG corps.  The extreme accountability proposed - which makes verification by any interested party simple - is a hallmark of a nation governed by the rule of law.  In the ban the US admits the use of cluster munitions, states reasons why we use them and acknowledges their risk to non-combatants.  It also points out the dilemma when enemy forces are "clustered" among civilians. 
 
So what is our response to the findings of the UN meeting in Dublin?  We will demilitarize non-compliant munitions (not a free process), we will upgrade our technology to provide surety of safety to non-combatants at the conclusion of hostilities and any use of these types of munitions must be approved by the combatant commander - this is typically a three star flag or general officer.  For the uninformed, this is a signature accountability for deployment of ordnance in the area of operations. 
 
In the brief time I spent in the Persian Gulf, part of my duties was to sign off on the command portion of time sensitive targeting (TST).  This meant that if we saw a bad guy in a house and needed to rock their world in a hurry, a host of players had to concur.  We looked at collateral damage, forces in the area, allies, legal and several other elements in order to insure there was no blue-on-blue (friendly fire) or civilian injury.  The process was detailed, precise and would not allow the weapon release without concurrence. 
 
Where in our adversaries' list of procedures does the same accountability and concern exist?  No where.  If the Peoples Liberation Army claims that they will no longer use cluster munitions, how would we know?  Part of the reason that the cold war never blossomed into an apocalypse was due to the ruthless checks, verifications and discussions which took place between the USA and USSR.  Reagan's oft quoted "trust but verify" comment was the safety which permitted each side to point instantaneous nuclear annihilation at one another and still carry out meaningful diplomacy.
 
Frankly, it feels good to know we play by the rules, even if no one else does and even if no one thinks we do.
 
Cluster Munitions Policy Released
Wed, 09 Jul 2008 13:57:00 -0500


IMMEDIATE RELEASE No. 577-08
July 09, 2008


U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)

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Cluster Munitions Policy Released

            Today the Department of Defense released a newly approved U.S. cluster munitions policy. The United States believes that the new policy will provide better protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure following a conflict, while allowing for the retention of a legitimate and useful weapon.
            Recognizing the need to minimize the unintended harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure associated with unexploded ordnance from cluster munitions, the secretary of defense has approved a new policy on cluster munitions intended to reduce the collateral effects resulting from the use of cluster munitions in pursuit of legitimate military objectives.  The new policy is the result of a year-long Department of Defense review of cluster munitions.
            Cluster munitions are legitimate weapons with clear military utility in combat. They provide distinct advantages against a range of targets, where their use reduces risks to U.S. forces and can save U.S. lives. These weapons can also reduce unintended harm to civilians during combat, by producing less collateral damage to civilians and civilian infrastructure than unitary weapons. Because future adversaries will likely use civilian shields for military targets – for example by locating a military target on the roof of an occupied building – use of unitary weapons could result in more civilian casualties and damage than cluster munitions. Blanket elimination of cluster munitions is therefore unacceptable due not only to negative military consequences but also due to potential negative consequences for civilians. 
            Post-combat, the impact of cluster munitions is limited in scope, scale and duration compared to other explosive remnants of war (ERW).  According to the Feb. 15, 2008, State Department white paper ("Putting the Impact of Cluster Munitions in Context with the Effects of All Explosive Remnants of War"), in 2006 fewer than 400 casualties were attributable to cluster munitions out of a global total of 5,759 reported for all ERW.
            A key facet of the DoD policy establishes a new U.S. technical norm for cluster munitions, requiring that by the end of 2018, DoD will no longer use cluster munitions which, after arming, result in more than one percent unexploded ordnance across the range of intended operational environments. Additionally, cluster munitions sold or transferred by DoD after 2018 must meet this standard. Any munitions in the current inventory that do not meet this standard will be unavailable for use after 2018. As soon as possible, military departments will initiate removal from active inventory cluster munitions that exceed operational planning requirements or for which there are no operational planning requirements. These excess munitions will be demilitarized as soon as practicable within available funding and industrial capacity. Effective immediately through 2018, any U.S. use of cluster munitions that do not meet the one percent unexploded ordnance standard must be approved by the applicable combatant commander. Previous DoD policy required military departments to design and procure "future" (after 2005) submunitions to a 99 percent reliability rate, but did not address use and removal of current munitions.
            The new policy is viewed as a viable alternative to a complete ban proposal generated by the Oslo Process in Dublin, Ireland, last month. The new policy serves as the basis for the U.S. position in negotiations toward an international agreement at the U.N. Convention of Conventional Weapons (CCW) that began on July 7. The United States has called for the completion of a new cluster munitions protocol by the end of the year. The CCW, unlike the Oslo process, includes all of the nations that produce and use cluster munitions, making any agreement reached there much more practically effective.

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