Plans to ban the use of cluster bombs in 2019 have been nixed by the Pentagon. Particular cluster bombs that were deemed harmful to citizens were the main target of the ban and will continue to be a concern. Cluster munitions can scatter and detonate within months and even years.
Tom Crossen, a spokesman for the Pentagon, said that cluster munitions still play a crucial part in the warfighting environment. He also claimed that citizens will be safe without the ban in place. George W. Bush’s administration also saw value in cluster bombs when he was in office. The former president refused the ban and lobbied against an international treaty that sought to prohibit the use of cluster munitions.
Despite the fact that over 100 countries have signed this treaty, which also prohibits the transfer and stockpile of cluster munitions, the United States remains off that list. Use of cluster bombs isn’t a common occurrence in the United States, but selling them to other countries is. Crossen claims the decision to halt a ban on cluster bombs wasn’t an easy one to make. The treaty is called “The Convention on Cluster Munitions.”
While many view cluster munitions as a danger to citizens, the Defense Department senior leadership believes banning them could be even more dangerous. They say that banning cluster bombs would leave a significant gap in their military forces. As a result, a new defense policy has been put in place. This recognizes the weapons as legitimate, but not a hazard to human life.
As concerns linger, Pentagon officials couldn’t give an estimate on when safer cluster bombs would be available. “Sufficient quantities” of the weapons are under the discretion of commanders. What exactly is defined as sufficient quantities wasn’t made clear in the policy. Patrick Shanahan, Deputy Defense Secretary, claimed the immediate intent of the United States is to use effective weapons with the lowest chance of harming the innocent.
Shanahan also said that while more reliable munitions are being sought after, a ban on cluster bombs would risk mission failure and even increase the risk of military and civilian casualties.