Sunday, October 14, 2012

Soft Targets

Assad's forces appear to be using cluster bombs against civilians:

Human Rights Watch said in a report that Syrian activists posted at least 18 videos on Oct. 9-12 showing remnants of the bombs in or near several towns, which included the central city of Homs, the northern cities of Idlib and Aleppo, the countryside in Latakia, and the Eastern Ghouta district near the capital Damascus. Many were on a north-south highway that has been the scene of fighting in recent days.

Cluster bombs have a bad reputation, but they are useful for taking out soft targets like massed infantry, towed artillery, trucks, and air defense weapons. They spread out lots of little bomblets that spread the target impact area more than a single but larger warhead can cover. Armored targets aren't really vulnerable unless they can blow a track or shred tires.

We no longer really need them. Precision weapons mean a single warhead can take out targets that previously needed the larger impact area for less-accurate warheads.

And the dud rate--essentially creating a thin mine field--made it a problem for our forces advancing into an area that we hit with cluster munitions (mostly our multiple rocket launchers).

In Syria, it would hardly be a war crime to use the weapons against insurgents or terrorists. But opportunities to target massed infantry have to be rare in a fight like this.

Civilians are a soft target, too, and the real target that Assad aims to hit. That is a war crime--not the weapon itself. So much for Responsibility to Protect (R2P), which was bandied about as the justification for our intervention in Libya last year.