More than 100 nations have agreed at an international conference in Dublin to ban cluster bombs, with Great Britain joining in despite U.S. opposition. While the Pentagon contended anew that cluster bombs are needed to protect American soldiers, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called the agreement "a big step forward to make the world a safer place."Just how the United States should respond is something that the next president of the U.S. should address before the news cycle expires. As noted in an earlier thread, Barack Obama had voted in favor of a 2006 Senate measure to block use of cluster bombs in civilian areas, while Hillary Clinton and John McCain voted against it. (The measure was rejected.)It's already clear where George Bush stands. The U.S. did not participate in the conference and, according to Nobel laureate Jody Williams, still had tried to water down the agreement by pressuring allies."The issue I have with the United States is that it is working overtime to try to influence the negotiations without having the wherewithal and courage to come here itself and do its own dirty work," she said. (The State Department's comments are here.)That is, Bush was quietly working toward the opposite result that Pope Benedict XVI had advocated - a strong, effective treaty. It should be noted that churches in Great Britain had been urging the prime minister to support the agreement.
Paul Moses, a contributing writer at Commonweal, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009) and An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York's Irish and Italians (NYU Press, 2015). Follow him on Twitter @PaulBMoses.