Libyan government forces are deploying the horrific — and, throughout much of the world, banned — weapons against rebels, proving that we will have to do more if we want to end their use.
Despite the Libyan government’s claims to the contrary, The New York Times recently found conclusive evidence that Qaddafi’s military is using cluster munitions in urban areas, deploying them against the rebels in Misrata. As is often the case with these weapons, which are banned by much of the world, Qaddafi’s cluster bombs appear to have caused far more civilian casualties than damage to legitimate military targets, raising the perennial question of the place of these weapons in modern warfare and what can be done to mitigate their terrible effects.
First deployed during World War II, cluster munitions have been used in at least 23 countries by at least 15 different countries’ militaries. The bombs, which open up mid-flight to spray smaller bombs across a wide area, were originally developed to be used against ground troops and vehicles. The number of submunitions in a given missile varies from 2 to 2,000 bomblets, which are small — think a baseball or a size-D battery — and brightly colored to provide visual warning of the danger they pose if they fail to explode on impact. Early models of submunitions lacked a guidance system; more recent designs have incorporated autonomous target detection and self-destruct capabilities, features which were developed in an attempt to mitigate the indiscriminate nature and the high rate of nonperformance of earlier models.
Read more at TheAtlantic.com.