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Subject: Re: status of land mine ban
From:, (R Fleming)
Date: Jan 09 1997
Newsgroups: sci.military.moderated

From, (R Fleming)

Lee Green MD <> wrote:

> From Lee Green MD <>
> In article <>,
> (Roger Fleming) wrote:
> <snippage>...
> > these casualties are caused by actions which are already in most grave
> > violation of international laws.... <snippage>
> > At this point, the bottom line usually changes to it being easier to
> > enforce a ban on mine production than on usage. Except that it is easier
> > to enforce a ban on mine production in Western countries, but possibly not
> > in Russia and China (the very sources you claim to be the problem).
> > Furthermore mines are the easiest of all modern weapons to manufacture
> > locally, so you can't really cut off the source anyway.
> All arguments which have been raised against the Canadian proposal. 
> But:
> You seem to be viewing the Canadian proposal as simplistic.  It is not. 

I am not referring to any specific proposal; I am referring to _any_
proposal which seeks to prohibit an illegitimate action by banning a
legitmate object from its important and legitimate uses. It is secondary
that this proposal is flawed by the ease of non-compliance.

> You also appear to be analyzing it as a probable failure, from the
> standpoint of military thinking, as though it were intended as an
> interdiction strategy.  It is not.
> The proposal is an epidemiological, not interdiction, approach. 
> Medicine and the military define victory very differently.  The Canadian

I am not saying that this proposal should be rejected because it will not
be 100% effective. I am saying that it may have dire consequences, and
that these will probably outweigh by far the degree of effectiveness it can
reasonably be expected to have. (Oddly enough, I don't recall ever seeing
a military definition of victory. I'll have to check the JSP, but I
suspect if there is one, it will be something like "attainment of
objectives within limitations").

> proposal will not eliminate mines.  We don't expect to ever eliminate
> tuberculosis either.  What we can do is reduce the incidence and
> case-fatality rates.  Victory means reducing the 15,000 mine casualties
> a year to a lower number.  Some lives will be saved and some people will
> avoid maiming.

That is a very dangerous argument. To continue your medical analogy, it is
not a "holistic" argument; it considers only one set of figures, and
ignores the rest of the question entirely. By the same argument, we should
ban electricity. But the overall impact on our society will cause far more
suffering and death than it will eliminate.
The fact is, no one really knows what the overall impact of this proposal
will be. But it could easily be grave, with only minor benefits. All of
the analyses I have seen have been either rather superficial (x many die
at the moment, therefore it will save x), or entirely emotional.

What we need is a study which attempts to calculate the reduced incidence
of unlawful mining (taking into account both improvised/cottage industry
mines, and illegally imported ones), the reduced fatality rate (definitely
not linear w.r.t. reduced mining; a field with 10 mines will kill the
farmer as surely as a field with 50), and compare that to the possibile
detrimental consequences (increased arms escalation and destabilisation,
and opportunistic aggression); then compare that cost/benefit analysis to
other possible models (eg enforcing the current laws by any of about 4
means; Carey Sublette's proposal from a few weeks ago; etc).
Nothing remotely like this has been done. 

> > Mines are a weapon which gives a weak nation the possibility of defending
> > itself against a powerful aggressor; and does so in a stabilising rather
> > than inflammatory way, because they are much more difficult to use
> > aggressively rather than defensively
> Unfortunately, while that may be Western military doctrine, it's not how
> the majority of the mines out there are really being used; see below.

It's not just a Western doctrine, it is a fundamental aspect of the way
mines work. Mines do not move about; they only affect they spot where they
are laid. Except for the new air/arty delivered mines - which are a whole
different kettle of fish, and could easily be banned with very few
arguments - they can only be laid in a place that your forces are
currently occupying. I realise that it is _possible_ to use mines
offensively (it's even covered in that "Western military doctrine"), and
that guerilla organisations normally do so. You go somewhere else, occupy
briefly, lay mines, and withdraw again. But it is not the natural or
easiest way to employ mines, which is _on your own territory_. So let me
explain why mines are _the only_ type of defense which tends to
de-escalate local tensions:

Suppose country A suspects country B is planning to invade.

Option 1: A buys a heap of tanks (or anything else that can project its
power, and doesn't just sit there). B responds by claiming that A is the
aggressor, and starts buying even more weapons, creating a local arms

Option 2: A buys a heap of mines and prepares barrier minefields (not
necessarily actually laying them yet; nobody but A really knows). B can't
really claim that this is aggressive, since having minefields in one's own
territory doesn't harm a peaceful neighbour. And A obviously wasn't
planning to lay the mines in B's territory; to do that, they would first
have to invade B, but they haven't bought any tanks...
B also can't easily escalate by buying lots of mine clearance equipment,
because that makes it obvious to the whole world who the real aggressor

> Marking minefields is a Western doctrine.  Only a very small minority of
> the mines out there now are in marked minefields; that's how they kill
> civilians.

It is not a Western doctrine; it is a requirement of international law.
Someone who lays mines in contravention of this law can, right now, be
arrested and tried in any country on earth, and (in many of them) executed
if convicted. This is one of my two major gripes about this proposal; the
problem exists because existing laws, which should be adequate for dealing
with it, are not enforced. If the new laws are not enforced, they will do
no better. If we are going to start enforcing them, the old laws would do
just as well (and in fact are better in many respects).

> > While we are sticking to the facts, let's dispose of this vicious little
> > piece of anti-Russian propaganda... The PFM series was
> > designed on the basis of aerodynamics, not as a deliberate attack on
> > children.
> Propaganda it is not.

Remember those WWI stories about the evil Boche eating Belgian children?
They sound so hysterical to sophisticated modern readers. But those evil
commie Russians, now _they_ would do anything.

>  This defense has been repeatedly raised, that the
> "wings" on the PFM mines are necessary for helicopter-sowing.  It's a
> disengenous argument.

No, it's not. It's a simple, easily verifiable observation; without the
wings, it wouldn't function. Your argument for disengenuity:

> "Well, we know what it does, but that's not what
> we meant it to do, so it's not our fault."  Russia continues to produce,
> deploy, and sell PFM-1s and -2s though their effect on children has long
> been known.

in fact rests on changing the topic, from "deliberately designed to attack
children" to "inadequate response to unforseen tragedy". BTW, are you sure
they are still selling PFM-1s? I thought PFM-2s completely replaced them a
decade ago.

> > attractive to children. If this mine was indeed designed to resemble a
> > toy, can you say what toy it resembles? I have never seen such a toy.
> I didn't say it resembles a specific name-brand toy.  It looks like a
> toy to a kid.

No specific name-brands required. Just any kind of toy it resembles, even
slightly. If it resembles no kind of toy, how can it be "designed to
resemble a toy"? The fact that a kid thinks it looks toy-like doesn't
prove it was _designed_ to look toy-like.

> > why in camouflage colours instead of something bright and cheerful?
> Seen through the eyes of a child, it *is* attractively colored.  Afghan
> children call PFM's "green parrots".

They come in dark green and sand. Suppose you wanted to design a small
object so it would be difficult to find in a wilderness of thorn bushes
and rocky scree. What colours might you use? Dark green and sand, perhaps?
Now suppose you want these objects to be easy to find, and attractive.
What colours would be good for that? Well, possibly apart from greys, I
think nearly anything _except_ dark green and sand would do. How can you
possibly claim that those colours are designed to be attractive to

> > Unfortunately, like many popular movements today, much of the opinion
> > behind the drive is very ill informed.
> Unfortunately, as in many situations where something reprehensible is
> being done on an industrial scale and power and money are at stake,
> facile avoidance of moral accountability is the norm, and dismissal of
> criticism as "ill-informed" and "emotional opinion" is routine.

Hmm. I gave two examples of this movement being ill-informed (the emotive
but highly implausible PFM story; and the number of people I have
personally spoken to, who support the ban despite knowing almost nothing
about it), and you practically accuse me of being an immoral toady of the
military-industrial complex. So, for the record, I had better say that I
have no association with anyone who manufactures mines. I am a soldier,
but these views are entirely mine, and not those of the Army nor the
Australian government (which in fact seems to disagree with me). 

> The Canadian proposal may or may not work as well as hoped, but it is no
> puff piece.  Its proponents are full well aware both of how limited a
> definition of success they can hope for, and what a long road it will be
> to achieve it.  Just as they're well aware, from the blood on their
> gloves, of how mines are really used down and dirty in the real world,
> not in Western doctrine manuals.

My instructors came from the UN mine clearance team in Afghanistan.

1m2w1d :)

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