Most of us were appalled and ashamed with the announcement that the Biden administration has agreed to provide cluster bombs to the Ukraine. Like many of you I responded with a sense of outrage that our country could justify supplying an indiscriminate and brutal weapon that especially endangers children, perhaps for years to come; a weapon system widely condemned by International law. Let me be clear: I condemn the use of cluster bombs.
But then I have had some further thoughts related to cluster bombs in a larger context. It is far easier to condemn cluster bombs on the basis that we can more easily personally relate to prospective accounts of maimed children who have stepped on a cluster bomb. Then I ask why I am not equally appalled by the other millions of dollars of munitions we are also supplying to the Ukraine. Most of these weapons are capable of far greater personal injury and death than cluster bombs, in addition to the destruction of the environment and national infrastructure. The Biden administration has justified supplying cluster bombs because it has determined the Ukraine military needs all the munitions possible because of the intensity of the threat of Russian invasion and war itself. In the mentality of waging lethal and survivalist war this argument can be seen as rational. And in comparison with the horrific and indiscriminate bombing from the Russian invasion, the cluster bomb issue can almost seem a relatively minor concern. Such is the logic of war.
The cruel fact is that the Ukraine is trying to survive an act of lethal aggression of the Russian invasion by waging an equally frightful counter war with the support of the U.S. and other allies. In the midst of war principled rules of war become moot when a soldier or a nation is fighting for immediate survival. The immorality of cluster bombs thus becomes another fatality of war itself; issues of morality are largely moot because war itself is immoral and cluster bombs thus become acceptable.
So as a pacifist it is a matter of integrity to not only condemn cluster bombs but to condemn the war that makes cluster bombs some how acceptable. I have spent a good deal of my life supporting programs that prevent violence and war in the first place. For the past decade or more, for example, I have been aware, through my affiliation with the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL.org), that there is increased commitment, internationally and in Congress, to advocate for initiatives that anticipate and counter violent conflict before it becomes open warfare. In particular I support the Alliance for Peacebuilding (AfP) that coordinates a Prevention and Protection Working Group, a coalition dedicated to improving government policies and civilian capacities to prevent deadly conflict and war. https://www.allianceforpeacebuilding.org/prevention-and-protection-working-group
Simply being anti-war, of course, can feel overwhelming, and it is understandable that we assume there is nothing realistic we can do about it. What we can do, however, is to become ever more committed personally to nonviolence. We can begin with monitoring our own personal aggressiveness and become aware how we can be better advocates and practitioners of daily nonviolence, reconciliation and conflict resolution in our daily lives. In other words, abolishing war begins with personal commitments to personally living more peaceably and justly and supporting organizational efforts that work to prevent war. Perhaps naively, I believe war will be abolished when as a species we finally realize just how profoundly evil it is. That is my prayer.