Andy Smith
MIne-action specialist

Comment:
Utility of mines, and of the ICBL


> Is it true that "victim-activated devices" have no place in modern warfare?

The truth is that as long as conflicts continue, victim-initiated devices - mines, booby-traps, Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) - of one kind or another will be used. When the chips are down, fighting "By All Available Means" (BAAM!) is normal. International efforts to alter the BAAM mindset seem to be the only way to change this. Genuine concern over the long-term effects of weapons will only become "fashionable" if led by the world's dominant military forces. At present, Russia, China and the USA have not banned the use of anti-personnel landmines - and all continue to develop other indiscriminate weapons that serve as victim-activated devices. The willingness to use mines and indiscriminate submunitions (in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Chechnya etc.) may seem to have reversed the successes of the ICBL. So numbers of anti-personnel landmines in the ground are falling but the use of indiscriminate weapons is probably increasing.

Despite this setback, I support the ICBL and CCW campaigners - because I believe that they have had an influence on the profligate use of ALL persistent weapons. That influence may be predominantly on civilians - but ultimately civilians do have some say in what the military finds acceptable. I do not believe that everyone must be threatened by legal consequences before changing their attitude to persistent weapons. The moral arguments are compelling - and are being heard BECAUSE of the campaigns. That said, the ICBL campaign was effectively neutered by the award of the Nobel prize. Apart from dividing the movement, it also implied that success had been achieved. There is very obviously still a long way to go - and maybe a real ban will not be achieved in our lifetime - but we have to start from somewhere and I have always believed that starting from where we happen to be makes a lot of sense.

My thanks to Robin Collins (formerly) Mine Action Canada, Celina and all the campaigners at home - most of whom give time freely, do not attend expensive festivals/workshops and do not spend money that could be available for clearance. No one can say with certainty that their "profile-raising" keeps up donor-interest in clearance - but I think that it does.

That said, by 2015 the ICBL campaign seemed to have lost a major part of the plot... See Three Failings of the ICBL...