With North Korean Threats Looming, the U.S. Army Pursues Controversial Weapons

The U.S. Army is planning to buy foreign-made cluster munitions after the Pentagon canceled a policy last year that limited their use.

Comments: 32

  1. Cluster munitions are absolutely necessary for the Army to keep with the Joneses. OIF and OEF notwithstanding, the US Army is tailored for one job above all: victory in a conventional, high-intensity conflict against an enemy with comparable equipment, a comparable level of mechanization, and greater proximity to his own logistical base. The Army absolutely cannot lose fire superiority under those conditions. Cluster munitions, which the potential enemies described above already possess, are a crucial tool for engaging and destroying the enemy’s artillery and mechanized formations. Duds that cause loss of life or limb among local nationals after the fact surely are a tragedy. The best way to avoid them is to not fight bad wars in the first place. The electorate of this nation has fallen into the bad habit of being politically supine when Congress is deciding whether they will fund a war, then expecting to micromanage the conflict after the troops have been committed. As an electorate, we need to stop trying to rationalize our nation’s bad choices by limiting certain of the negative outcomes with potentially disastrous consequences for our fighting men and women in the next conventional war with a near peer.

  2. @Ian Leary There hasn't been a conventional war with a near peer against the U.S since World War 2 and yet for the last 70 years since, the U.S has been using these munitions as well as agent orange , Napalm and depleted uranium projectiles against NON PEERS and as a result cased huge civillian casualities and deaths.

  3. @Ian Leary, let's keep going with your line of reasoning... What about nerve gas? How about biological weapons? We, as humans, have decided that certain weapons are too horrific to be used. Most of the world has decided that cluster munitions fall into that category. The USA should be a leader when it comes to morality despite our current President.

  4. My family, in every generation since 1835, has served in the US Army. I have no reservation about the use of overwhelming military force when necessary. That said, that use should be only in absolute accord with the Powell Doctrine: Is it in our national interest? Is there a clear objective? Have risks and costs been honestly analyzed? Have all non-violent interventions been exhausted? Is there a defined and plausible exit strategy? Have potential consequences been honestly considered? It the intervention supported by the American people? Is there international support for the intervention? For me, the critical piece that we routinely fail on since Viet Nam is ensuring the electorate, the majority of whom do not endorse the use of cluster munitions, is in full support of the intervention. Given the rightward drift and increasing isolation from the broad electorate in the armed services officer class, support of the electorate seems to be less and less of a concern to our political and military leadership. Additionally (and all too unfortunately as President Eisenhower forewarned), we love us some new "toys"- which inevitably leads to the “Smoke 'em if you got ‘em!” philosophy of cluster munitions and weapons systems.

  5. I believe war is the most destructive undertaking of man. Full stop. Not only do we spend the blood of our (usually poor) citizens and treasure from all of us, the effects of war echo far beyond the end date for hostilities. Cluster munitions and land mines kill indiscriminately well into the future. Munitions from World War I are still being found and are still killing the dedicated demineurs of France. The act of war itself kills the human soil and produces a toll of damaged soldiers from PTSD and most certainly CTE. These costs are rarely ever recognized or planned for when national pride takes over. Wars make little economic sense as well. Money spent on building a road, for example, will reverberate through the economy as workers spend their paychecks and will increase the economic access the road creates for everyone. Money for weapons is "locked up" and will not produce further benefit; in fact, the effect of weapons is to degrade the enemy soldiers and infrastructure at which they are directed. We should revisit two movies: The Bridge on the River Kwai and The Best Years of Our Lives. The final words in Bridge spoken by the doctor summed up the value of conflict; "Madness! Madness!". The Best Years showed the costs borne in arguably our last just war, WWII, as three veterans tried to adjust to new realities. Arguing about cluster munitions is valuable, but more valuable is putting a stop to every weapon used in humanity's degradation.

  6. @Douglas McNeill Pales in comparison to our environmental damage and destruction.

  7. @Warren S Spending less on war would leave more to spend on environmental causes. Thank you for your comment.

  8. Does anyone besides me find it ironic that the neutral and pacifist Swedes are major producers of cluster munitions?

  9. Do your headline writers ever read the story for which they're writing a headline? The story has nothing to do with "North Korean Threats." As a former Infantry office and combat veteran, I can see why cluster munitions might have a role to play in a ground war on the Korean Peninsula. However, the nature of the "Korean Threat" is no longer the kind of meat-grinder ground conflict we saw in the 1950s. They will be irrelevant to the nuclear exchange that is now before us. So, the bottom line is that the idiots in the Trump Administration are not only exacerbating the North Korean nuclear threat; but they are also arming our forces with weapons meant for the last war. Cluster munitions are useful in ground combat. But they are the gift that keeps on giving afterwards because they do not always find their target nor detonate when they do. Instead, they lay around or are thinly buried for decades to maim and destroy the lives of innocents. This is just another, expensive, really-bad idea.

  10. I thought cluster bombs were illegal. Outlawed by international law. Years later children are killed by the objects they discover in the dirt, the bomblets. There is no morality left in this administration.

  11. But Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un are in love. How can North Korea be considered a threat?

  12. Biased sourcing in this story. For example: “The global community has agreed that indiscriminate weapons such as land mines and cluster munitions should never be used." An accurate statement if you do not include Russia, China, and India, which have not agreed to the ban. Did you forget to mention that? War is not nice, but we do not want to turn democracies into a modern version of the Children's Crusade.

  13. Land mines and cluster munitions can be very effective at their roles. And as the Chinese and Russians don't care about any restrictions, until someone develops a real alternative (or ends war) they will continue to show up regardless of what the "global community" has agreed to,

  14. While the erratic nature of NK’s leadership is always cause for concern and must be closer monitored, what is the specific threat posed by NK that cluster bombs will solve?

  15. Threat from North Korea? Really? Is this any way for lover boys, Presidents Trump and Kim to behave after the exchange of such beautiful letters of deep personal endearment with one another?

  16. Since the Armed Forces raison d'être is victory in conflicts, let's review how they have done, shall we? Since WWII we have lost, walked away from, or fought to a standoff, every conflict we have entered. Oops! I forgot Grenada, we kicked the stuffing out of a small Caribbean nation. This raises the question of why we are paying $717 Billion per year for an Armed Forces that can't win? Perhaps we would be better off to cut the DOD budget to $360 Billion and concentrate on Defense, instead of sticking our nose in places it doesn't belong?

  17. Bring back the draft and maybe the citizens will become engaged. Otherwise it’s me vs them or “who cares?”

  18. I thought N Korea was no longer a threat. Another excuse?

  19. Why isn't this front page news? why isn't this breaking news on CNN, MSNBC, ABC? Donald Trump and his second group of White House staff (only Mattis is still around from the first group) will get us into several wars before 2020 - NK, China, Iran, Venezuela, even our Southern Border.

  20. I thought there was Peace In Our Time.

  21. We're actually going to fire on North Korea? Seriously? Don't they know that their Commander In Chief is in love with Kim Jung Un? They need to get on the same page, or find another excuse to keep these banned weapons.

  22. This article shows how utterly incompetent our military has become in evaluating the effectiveness of new and existing weapon systems. In order to approve the purchase of such said “military junk”, requires a basic and perhaps inherent incompetence and corruption in the military’s acquisition system. In the last 60 years the US military has exhibited this incompetence and corruption and examples are numerous. The famous M-16, jammed frequently in the field in Southeast Asia, during the Vietnam years, such that the Russian made Kalashnikov or AK-47 automatic assault rifle, much cheaper, easier made, and more reliable, was the preferred weapon all over the world. Yet the US bought them and continues to buy them. The F22 stealth fighter bomber at only $339 million each, give us a freaking break! Is barely flyable. The B-2 bomber, another stealth taxpayer boondoggle, hugely and likely secret priced weapon system can’t fly at supersonic speeds, because the airframe isn’t strong enough. Then there are the famous $600 toilet seats for the B-1 intercontinental bomber replacement for the 75 year old B-52,and the $1200 coffee cups of recent note. Our military contractors, arms dealers, and weapon makers are laughing all the way to the bank, arm in arm with our multi millionaire Congress.

  23. I thought the best weapons were made in Sweden. Irony?

  24. Shameful. There are STILL large areas of Laos where you dare not walk without the danger of losing a limb.

  25. When if ever with the United States join other civilized nations to admit that "collateral damage" is usually what makes these weapons so inhuman. Not only do they kill many innocent human beings, they lay-in-wait for years to reek havoc on farmer, animal herders, playing children, strolling US soldiers, etc. The so called benefits of these weapons do not meet the expectations. They border on the insane. The endless money spent to buy them surely benefits those that a famous and savvy American general and then president, Dwight Eisenhower, warned against: the military industrial complex. How much longer?

  26. Unless you have significant experience in combat as a member of our Armed Forces, please refrain from policy declarations about what weapons and tactics are appropriate. You have no idea how modern battles are fought or won, what weapon systems we or our opponents possess, or when, why and how they are used. You will not learn it reading articles in the NYT. The USA takes extraordinary measures to protect civilians, well beyond other countries, often to the detriment of our troops.

  27. @Ize That’s what our warmongers want you to believe and it seems you have drank the kool-aid. After the Roman Empire the US is the most criminal and war mongering nation in history…all in the name of “democracy”. Do you know the Pentacon spends $5 billion/year on PR and advertising just to brainwash the public? The Pentacon, the CIA along with our 17 “intelligence” agencies and the rest of the military-industrial-complex has completely brainwashed the American taxpayer. On top of that they have not won a war in 70 years. The US spends 1/3 or its revenue on defense (2018): Total US revenue: $3,400 (billion) The Pentagon Budget $575.0 billion The War Budget $64.6 DOE Nuclear Warheads $20.0 Other Defense $8.0 Homeland Security $50.0 State Department (Military Portion) $7.0 Intelligence $70.0 Veterans Support $186.0 Military Retirement $80.0 Defense Share of Interest on the Debt $100.0 TOTAL $1,160.6 billion USN/USMC 1966-70 Vietnam

  28. I don't see us having to rely on cluster munitions to win a war against North Korea. Besides, any unexploded submunitions could pose a hazard to our own troops. It's also immoral to indiscriminately cause harm to civilians. It's the 21st century, we have smart weapons that can minimize collateral damage.

  29. That's what you get when the only "education" your top commander and president can show for is a third grade military school and his advisers are war mongers who never went to war themselves. They will ask questions like "Since we have some any of these weapons, why don't we use them?" and then act accordingly. The US has not returned to the club of users of illegal weapons, they have just shown again why they love some of their partners like Saudi Arabia so much, because their military thinking of "kill them all and let God sort out his own" is so compatible. And I don't only mean Trump, the same goes for nearly all of his predecessors like the one they gave a Nobel Peace peace for things to come while in reality he ran more and longer wars than any other US president in history. This time it is the world that has a right to demand a regime change in the US and heavy sanctions against his country for it's war crimes.

  30. That's out cowardly bully in chief and his wickedly corrupt henchpeople, encouraging the increase of the nastiest weapons on earth, that every other civilized country has condemned. Jesus wept!

  31. Truly evil!

  32. I am very pro-military and support equipping our armed forces with the best weapons possible. However, I think we need to look at some of the conflicts we have gotten into and ask ourselves, "What benefit is really going to come from remaining in this war?". Many wars start out as justified and necessary, but often become pointless as time goes on. A great example of this is Afganastan. In 2001 a war in Afganastan was called for and justified. However, that is no longer the case. We no longer have a national interest in Afganastan, since the most major threats to our own security have been eliminatated. Should we really put ourselves at risk over something that could be settled otherwise?