September 04, 2002

UM, WHAT? Steven den Beste


Steven den Beste is on again about the Landmine Treaty. He feels that because it bans anti-personnel mines and not anti-tank mines, it is a morally perverse treaty that the U.S. is right to reject. He has compared it in the past to a small arms ban on single shot rifles, but not machineguns:

An anti-vehicle mine is one which could plausibly damage a vehicle if used properly. About the only practical difference is that anti-vehicle mines are going to be more powerful. Such mines can also be set off by infantry, only when that happens the detonation will nearly always kill the poor bastard, and wound his fellows in a wide area around. But anything an anti-personnel mine can do, anti-vehicle mines can also do. It's just that they'll cost more -- and be more deadly.

The problem is in the first sentence. An anti-vehicle mine isn't one that damages a vehicle... it's one that is set to only be triggered by an object of vehicular size. Properly installed, soldiers should be able to walk right over pure anti-tank mine obstacles without triggering their weight-sensitive triggers... that's kind of the point, to save the actual tank-killing explosions for the actual tanks (otherwise, if you were heartless, you could just have your tanks follow your soldiers in battle and let the soldiers blow up the mines for you.) As Den Beste points out, the landmine ban specifically only refers to mines "designed to be exploded by the presence, proximity or contact of a person." Mines designed to be exploded only by multi-ton vehicles are exempt.

The Canadian government has bought into the belief, and rightly so, that a world with only anti-tank mines, as outlined by the ban, would be the safest possible world. Think about it: you could still lay thick belts, in Korea or wherever, to slow and choke an enemy's massive armoured advance if you wanted... but you'd have no more stories of children losing arms by going out to play in the fields (unless, one supposes, they were driving the family tractor at the time). If all the world's armies replaced all their AP mines with an equivalent number of AT mines tomorrow, the number of indiscriminate civilian casualties due to wars ongoing, and future, would drop precipitately, not increase as Den Beste suggests

You can debate, I agree, whether the treaty in question is enforceable, or is really anything more than lip service without an aggressive demining and enforcement regime, or that anti-personnel mines with adequate safety mechanisms, like remote on/off switches or timed self-destruct capability, should also be exempt... but most current antipersonnel mines are so indiscriminate, so devastating to countries trying to recover from war, that any moral suasion to discontinue their use is obviously worth the paper it's printed on. As with chemical weapons over the last 80-odd years, America's concern here has always had more to do with military pragmatism than any logic or morality.

Posted by BruceR at 08:32 PM



I don't think Charles Johnson is at all racist, or unfair to Muslims. I think a significant portion of his posters are Cro-Magnons, and Charles has failed to exert proper control over his Comments boards to keep them under control. But that just makes him a bad web moderator, not a bad person: his own takes on events continue to show a remarkable mix of fairness and a true passion for justice.

That said, I can't read the Comments on his site anymore. Taken in large amounts, they make you feel dirty inside. And their presence is steadily undermining and ruining the moral clarity of a once-great weblog.

Posted by BruceR at 03:02 PM

WOW, THAT'S STUPID Greece outlaws


Greece outlaws all computer games. My dreams of an age of computer game Prohibition, complete with game-runners, corrupt anti-gaming cops and "mouse-easies" where the Everquest flows 'til dawn may yet come true...

Posted by BruceR at 02:37 PM



Slate drives another nail in the coffin of the "Atta in Prague" story. However much I might wish it were true, it almost certainly is not.

Posted by BruceR at 02:16 PM