Global Mine Clearance an Achievable Goal?

By Sahlin, Carl T., Jr. | Strategic Forum, August 1998 | Go to article overview

Global Mine Clearance an Achievable Goal?


Sahlin, Carl T., Jr., Strategic Forum


Conclusions

* Approximately 60 people are killed or seriously injured daily by anti-personnel land mines (APLs).

* The number of victims may seem insignificant given the world population, but each person killed or maimed presents a real physical and psychological barrier to the economic and social development of more than 60 affected countries.

* Although 122 nations recently signed a treaty in Ottawa, Canada, banning APL use, the logical next step is to clear existing mines.

* The policy goal established by the Clinton administration to clear anti-personnel land mines from the world by 2010 may be achieveable but it requires a change in U.S. strategy.

Banning Anti-Personnel Land Mines

The anti-personnel land mine (APL) ban movement, which led to the Ottawa Treaty, enjoys popular support in many Western democracies as well as in mine-afflicted nations. The ban requires an immediate and unconditional commitment to prohibit the use and destroy stockpiles of APLs within a specified time. It makes no differentiation between nations with global security responsibilities and those with none. The ban movement did not recognize previous and ongoing voluntary efforts by the United States and other nations to limit and control APL use. The debate portrayed countries as being either for of against the indiscriminate killing of innocent children. In the United States the issue was emotionally charged and hotly debated, although largely "inside the beltway." Certainly, U.S. commitment to such a treaty is decided in Washington, but also, and just as important, the issue had neither the attention nor interest of Middle America.

Underscoring America's commitment to the principle of an APL free world, but also recognizing the current military need for APL in certain defense scenarios, President Clinton charged the administration with two major near-term efforts. First the Department of Defense (DOD) must deploy a replacement for APLs in the Korean DMZ by 2006. Second, he directed a significant increase in the U.S. mine clearance program, setting a goal for ending the APL threat by 2010. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright established an office to achieve this goal.

U.S. Policy

U.S. efforts focus on alleviating the personal and economic burdens caused by APLs by helping afflicted states address medical and financial problems while also training local citizens to neutralize APLs.

Mine Clearance Policy Goals

* to promote human welfare through mine awareness and training, and

* to promote U.S. foreign policy, security, and economic interests.

Mine Clearance Policy Objectives

* reduction of civilian casualties,

* development of medical infrastructure,

* enhancement of host country stability,

* establishment of sustainable indigenous demining programs.

These goals and objectives recognize the connection between APL victims, their local economy, and the logical need for afflicted nations to work the hardest to provide their own solutions. When a medical infrastructure is developed that is sustainable and can meet all the requirements for rehabilitation, victims can retake their place in productive society. As economies develop, with the return of arable land and capable people, regions and countries become more stable. Stable economies promote political stability. U.S. national interests of peace and stability are complemented.

Philosophical Approach

As long as the United States is the pre-eminent world power, it will be looked to for leadership in mine clearance. About 10 years ago the United States joined the fledgling humanitarian mine clearance effort around the world. Since that time we have generally expanded our effort by simply doing more of what was done before. While that approach got mines out of the ground, it will not suffice to meet President Clinton's goal and the world's expectation of us. …

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