November 18, 2011

Cluster Munitions Hypocrisy

I am in Oslo, where I had the rewarding if intimidating experience of delivering two lectures to Brynjar Lia, Thomas Hegghammer and their fellow researchers at FFI yesterday. Today, meanwhile, I had lunch with some instructors at the Krigsskolen, where we discussed the challenges of teaching counterinsurgency to young officers.

Oslo is a good place to discuss cluster munitions, as the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) was signed about 500 meters from where I am sitting, drinking coffee and blogging. The United States, meanwhile, is trying to push an alternative convention -- the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) -- through the United Nations, to allow exemptions for certain weapons systems that would prove quite useful in, say, a defense of the Korean Peninsula.

There are two things about this whole exercise that make me angry. The first is that, obviously, none of the states that have signed the CCM have to defend South Korea in the event of North Korean aggression. But the thing that should make us all angry is the way in which the CCM defines cluster munitions. Guess which kinds of cluster munitions are exempted from the CCM? Surprise! Cluster munitions made by big European defense munitions corporations, such as Germany's Rheinmetall AG and the Diehl Group, makers of the SMArt 155mm artillery rounds, and France's Nexler Munitions and Sweden's Bofors AB, makers of the 155mm BONUS artillery round. The CCM is written -- and specifically, Article 2 of the CCM is written -- to give European manufacturers of cluster munitions a competitive advantage over U.S. manufacturers of cluster munitions.*

The whole thing stinks.

*Caveat Lector: whenever I write about the defense industry, which I rarely do, I cannot help but write about corporations that are often donors to CNAS programs. Although my own research has never been funded by defense corporations such as Textron, which makes the airborne cluster munitions prohibited by the CCM and exempted by the CCW, CNAS has received institutional support from these corporations. Unlike most think tanks, we advertise our donors on our website. I do not know how else to approach this subject aside from just being transparent with all of you and allowing you to decide whether I a) have a damn good point or b) am just being a shill for the military-industrial complex. I'll just be open about the conflict of interest here. Which is more than can be said for the cynical CCM.