[FoRK] Africa...

J. Andrew Rogers andrew at ceruleansystems.com
Fri Jan 8 09:41:29 PST 2010

On Jan 8, 2010, at 3:17 AM, Jean Jordaan wrote:
> Hmm, I saw ones that shoot out tripwires, but maybe I didn't understand
> what I was seeing. This says: "this category of submunition is often
> referred to as having an area-denial role", goes on to say that cluster
> bombs were not designed as such, and: "Area denial could only be a valid
> strategy if the planners or users were relying on a recognised
> propensity for malfunction [...] since the malfunction is so common as
> to be considered a property of the weapon". I'd say that referring to
> their area-denial role constitutes such a recognition.

The US mines of this type have a very short timeout before deactivating, from a few hours to a couple days depending on configuration.  Even if the software deactivation fails, there is a hardware deactivation when the power cell goes dead several days later.  

> "US Department of Defense statistics indicate that something like 285
> million BLU 26 series submunitions were dropped on Vietnam, Cambodia and
> Laos", so it comes to the same thing: they knew they were dropping bombs
> that would be killing for generations.
> ...
> Elsewhere on that site they quote failure rates of around 30% for
> bombs dropped in Laos.

The reported failure rate is considerably lower than 30% (though still not great). When the US switched to smart munitions many years back, the US sold its Viet Nam era cluster bomb inventory to several different countries that have deployed them.  Modern US munitions as a class are generally excluded from cluster bomb and land mine policy arguments, being both sensor-fuzed and having reliably low failure rates in any case (less than 1%).

>> Worse, everyone who used mines and didn't have a plan to completely
>> clean up afterwards was really stupid and careless.
> There is no plan to completely clean up afterwards, I don't think any
> power who has used landmines have ever cleaned up any deployment
> completely.

The US has cleaned up its land mines for many decades, having a strict documentation policy.  They religiously document their mine fields and immediately send that documentation up the chain of command for archival; in cases where the US is not able to recover their own mine field, the US State Department delivers copies of this documentation to the appropriate government as soon as hostilities cease.  

In any case, US land mines have been sensor-fuzed for decades. They don't stay active very long at all. It is other countries' land mines that are the problem.

The reason the US ignores land mine and cluster bomb treaties is because it is just about the only country in the world to which such things don't apply. They invested in (expensive) sensor-fuzed munitions a long time ago, making them pretty much the only responsible adults regarding such things. That the rest of the industrialized (and developing) world still uses dumb land mines and dumb cluster bombs is hardly something that can be reasonably pinned on the US.

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