08 May 2010

It seems that the Obama administration is being pressured to, at the very least, abide by the Ottawa Treaty, even if it doesn't sign the treaty itself. Of course, conservatives and some Pentagon officials are aghast, screaming that doing so would weaken this country in the event of war, particularly if war broke out on the Korean Peninsula.

I find the argument over land mines fascinating, particularly because I just watched a documentary about Sherman's march to the sea, which had some of the first land mines ever used. The Confederates, desperate to stop Sherman, had planted "torpedoes" in his path, and Sherman considered them such a gross violation of the laws of war that he felt justified in using Confederate prisoners as minesweepers. (That ended the practice pretty quickly.)

More importantly, in the US's two most recent wars, there have been no place for land mines. Land mines are a relic; they are the ultimate tool for ground control, but are completely antithetical to any form of population support or suppression. In Korea they might see some limited use in slowing down an oncoming Northern invasion, but they would have zero utility in just about any other conflict.

The ubiquity of images like the above means that the US can get some real traction and support for even the most modest of moves, such as agreeing not to use them while still not signing or ratifying the treaty. Hell, even if the US agrees not to use them anywhere but Korea, or say that it would not use them but would allow its allies (hint, hint, ROK) to do so, it would greatly help the US image. There are a number of treaties like this (the Rights of Children, anyone?), but this (due to the Nobel Prize 13 years ago and other reasons) is probably the most high profile.

Here's hoping that the administration pushes this through.

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