President Donald Trump promising action on North Korea is nothing new. In fact, we’ve heard it quite a few times.
The Pentagon delaying a ban on a devastating type of bomb concurrently with the president’s promise? Well, as a certain Oz-based apparatchik once noted, that’s a horse of a different color.
The Pentagon announced Thursday it was indefinitely shelving a plan that would ban the use of certain cluster bombs, The Associated Press reported.
The announcement came on the same day that the president promised North Korea that the Kim regime’s latest ICBM test would be met with consequences.
“I will only tell you that we will take care of it,” President Trump said, according to CNN. “It is a situation that we will handle,”
Across the Potomac River at the Pentagon, military brass was announcing something that, to untrained ears, didn’t have anything to do with North Korea — a delay in the ban of the current generation of cluster bombs.
First, let’s deal with what a cluster bomb is. It’s a weapon that, when it nears its target, releases a score of explosive sub-munitions — or “bomblets” — to hit the ground and create a cluster of explosions. Here’s an example in action by the Russian military in Syria:
The problem isn’t when the bomblets explode (although I’m sure the people of Aleppo probably weren’t terribly pleased when they did), but rather when they don’t. Much like unexploded landmines, unexploded bomblets can cause a danger to civilians who step on or otherwise disturb them.
In the final year of the George W. Bush administration, the Pentagon declared that by Jan. 1, 2019, the U.S. would only use cluster bombs if testing demonstrated that the bomblets from the weapon in question would detonate at least 99 percent of the time.
Pentagon spokesman Tom Crosson said that despite the best efforts of munitions developers, cluster bombs had not been able to achieve a failure rate of 1 percent or less. Since it remains uncertain how long it will take to develop technology with that level of reliability, the Pentagon says it would set it aside the 2019 deadline and implement the change when the technology was there.
Liberal politicians and activist groups denounced the Pentagon’s plans.
“The U.S. says it can’t produce ‘safe’ cluster munitions, so it has decided to keep using ‘unsafe’ ones,” Mary Wareham of Human Rights Watch said, arguing no compelling reason existed to continue using the bombs.
“We condemn this decision to reverse the long-held U.S. commitment not to use cluster munitions that fail more than 1 percent of the time, resulting in deadly unexploded sub-munitions.”
However, the compelling reason may involve North Korea. According to Conservative Tribune’s Jared Harris, such bombs would play a critical role in any battle against the Kim regime.
“Cluster bombs, like napalm, can deliver a deadly payload to an enemy that we are 100 percent certain is hiding in a thicket of trees without risking American lives to figure out which tree he’s behind,” Harris said.
“North Korea plans on using a deep and extended defense, forcing us to pay with blood every inch we take. Trying to emulate Vietnam or their predecessors in the ’50s, they hope to halt our war machine by attrition. We could make short work of cities, but the hilly and cave-riddled countryside is a different story.
“Cluster bombs would be used against North Korean hillfighters, clearing objectives that would normally cause a disproportionate loss of American life,” Harris added. “It’s unrealistic to expect children to be in these areas once peace is established. Any unexplored ordinance would quickly leak, rust, and naturally de-prime in North Korea’s rainy climate.”
There’s also the fact that the Pentagon made the announcement just after the North Korean missile launch and on the same day that President Trump issued his warning to the North Koreans. That certainly doesn’t seem like a coincidence.
Either way, holding off on the retirement of a devastating bomb is probably not a bad idea when the world’s most unstable nuclear regime can’t seem to stop rattling sabers.
While using the cluster bomb in other situations may be inadvisable, it could be crucial if tensions with North Korea come to a head.
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