Over the last few months the US has narrowed the gulf between its own policy on antipersonnel landmines and the strong prohibition favored by most of the world’s countries. At the end of June, the U.S. announced that it will ban the production and acquisition of antipersonnel landmines, draw down its stockpiles and take steps to eventually joining the global ban treaty. Then, in late September, the Obama Administration promised not to use such weapons anywhere but the Korean Peninsula.
In an article Cayman Mitchell and I wrote for e-International Relations, we reflect on how ancient debates about the Pelopponesian War offer surprisingly fresh insights into global policy debates about high-tech weapons. By making comparisons to Aristophanes’ play Lysistrata, we show campaigners have resisted states’ claims to ‘know best’ about security matters. They have pushed officials to answer questions about the necessity and risks of killer robots as well as the underlying social norms (including gendered ones) that guide global security policymaking. We argue that we need not be grateful for the ‘protection’ of killer robots, as realists would have us believe; we may instead mimic Lysistrata and humanize the very structure of protection in the 21st century, saving ourselves from killer robots’ de-humanizing violence.
One of the persistent misperceptions of minefields is that they are like a flat, rectangular, clearly-bounded football field. I’m not exactly sure who to blame: perhaps Hollywood, perhaps the computer game Minesweeper, perhaps simply the word “minefield”. But reality is far more complex.
A minefield often replicates the shape of the conflict that produced it. Contemporary battlefields are rarely like the neatly divided board of the game Risk or chess. Ambushes, improvised explosive devices, remote aerial attacks and the shifting allegiances of fragmented factions mean there are no clear divisions between “safe territory” and the “war zone”.
For more of my reflections on the shape of minefields, read this article I wrote for MAG America’s latest newsletter.
To learn more on what you can do to help abolish nuclear weapons, click here.
Doug Weir over at the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons sent me this alarming review of the lingering effects of Manhattan Project-era uranium storage in Staten Island, New York, by the “Friends of the Pleistocene.” It’s a reminder that the human impact of military waste is not limited to former war zones, but can impact the “home front.” For more on the politics of military waste in New York City, see my post on the munitions abandoned in waters below the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge between Brooklyn and Staten Island.
Originally posted on FOP:
The Bayonne bridge is the fourth longest steel arch bridge in the world, and was the longest at the time of its completion in 1931. It connects Staten Island to New Jersey. Last week FOP headed for the Bayonne for our Geologic City project, but we hadn’t come to document the bridge.
In 1938, a three story Archer Daniels Midland Company warehouse stood in the shadow of the Bayonne with an address of 2377-2387 Richmond Terrace. Typically the warehouse stored vegetable oil. That year the buildings took on a new purpose when a ship carrying 1200 tons of raw uranium ore from the Belgian Congo unloaded 2,007 steel drums into its secret Staten Island destination. According to Waterwire, not even the Staten Island Borough President at the time knew of its arrival.
The Staten Island uranium warehouse was arranged by Edgar Sengier. Sengier was a Belgian businessman and director…
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Without much fanfare last week, representatives of the State Department announced subtle but crucial changes to the US government’s stance on landmines, distancing itself from the unilateral tone of Bush-era policy.
The new policy will halt US production or acquisition of antipersonnel landmines, reduce stockpiles and begin “diligently pursuing solutions that would be compliant with the convention and that would ultimately allow us to accede to the convention.” The Pentagon has also clarified the number of landmines in its stockpiles – 3 million (contrary to earlier estimates of 10 million) – and released details on its ongoing destruction efforts.
“The US has finally come out of the shadows in indicating it intends to join the landmine treaty, and let’s hope it will move ahead rapidly to come on board,” said Steve Goose, arms director at Human Rights Watch, one of the leading members of the US Campaign to Ban Landmines.
To read my analysis of this important policy change, read my guest blog on the international relations blog Duck of Minerva.