President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton are getting big praise around the world for their new Charm Offensive. As far as I’m concerned, the praise is justified. I heard our secretary of state interviewed on BBC a few weeks ago about our diplomatic outreach to Iran on Afghanistan. And BBC was all, what makes you think Iran is going to help you on Afghanistan? And Hillary was all, you know, actually Iran helped us tremendously in Afghanistan after 2001. Our ambassador in Afghanistan and the Iranian ambassador were meeting practically every day. I just about fell off my chair. You’d have thought Hillary was applying for a job at the National Iranian American Council.
But at some point nice words about international cooperation have to be matched by deeds, the kind of concrete, bite down on, facts-on-the-ground deeds you can wave around while saying, "see, there really is change," without fear of plausible contradiction.
A big step would be for the United States to formally join the international consensus on cluster bombs: these weapons are inherently anti-civilian and should be totally banned from the face of the earth. On Monday, March 30, US groups campaigning for the cluster bomb ban are asking Americans to call their senators, urging them to support the Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act (S. 416). Mark your calendar.
This isn’t pie in the sky. As a senator, President Obama supported restrictions on cluster bombs – in fact, he was the only Democratic senator running for president who supported Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-California) amendment restricting exports of cluster bombs in 2006. And the restrictions on exports that Obama supported as a senator are now US law. Now campaigners are asking: "If US allies should not use these weapons, then why should US troops?"
There’s been a good bit of resistance in the United States – even more now that the Wall Street boys have tanked the economy with their publicly insured gambling – to the notion that the United States, along with other wealthy countries, should pull its weight in terms of foreign aid. So here’s something we can do that’s free: stop causing destruction that people will expect us to pay for later.
Earlier this month, CNN reported that cluster bomb clearing operations in Southern Lebanon following the 2006 Israeli invasion were shutting down due to lack of international funding. In large measure, those cluster bombs are our cluster bombs – cluster bombs that are still killing and maiming Lebanese children today. If we don’t want to pay for the cleanup, then we should redouble our efforts to make sure that there’s nothing to clean up in the future.
Robert Naiman is senior policy analyst at Just Foreign Policy.