US Landmine Policy: Time for Change

“In general, I strongly support international initiatives to limit harm to civilians caused by conventional weapons,” Barack Obama said during his campaign. “As president, I will help lead the way on these issues.” In fact, his stance on disarmament was one of the reasons I voted for him. He has fallen short of that commitment. Far from leading on conventional weapons issues, his Administration has hemmed and hahhed in a lengthy ‘policy review’ while maintaining the Bush-era policy that was a regression from the Clinton years.

As much of the world is readying to celebrate International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action on 4 April, the US remains a hold out on landmine and cluster munitions policies that are widely accepted around the world, including by NATO allies and 68 US Senators.

“As a commander of U.S. troops in combat in Korea and Vietnam, I did not allow my soldiers to use anti-personnel land mines because I believed them to be a net liability,” Lt. General (Ret.) Robert G. Gard wrote in an opinion piece three years ago.

As President Obama seeks to repair America’s reputation abroad, advocating U.S. adherence to the mine ban treaty would be a low-cost, meaningful gesture of diplomatic goodwill with both humanitarian and practical benefits. U.S. participation would almost certainly aid efforts to universalize the treaty by increasing pressure on other hold-out nations like China and Russia.

For an excellent critique of US landmine policy, read this recent article by Don Lieber. Visit the website of the US Campaign to Ban Landmines to see what you can do to call on Obama to make the US truly a leader on conventional weapons issues.

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~ by Matthew Bolton on 22 March 2012.

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