Magazine article Foreign Policy in Focus

Problems with Current U.S. Policy

Magazine article Foreign Policy in Focus

Problems with Current U.S. Policy

Article excerpt

Although critical of the use of child soldiers in certain contexts, the U.S. government--particularly the Department of Defense--has consistently opposed widely popular international efforts to raise the minimum age for soldiering to 18. For the past five years, the U.S. has led efforts to block the development of an Optional Protocol to the CRC that would raise the minimum age for soldiering to 18, consistent with other internationally recognized children's rights and norms. Even though a 1998 sense of Congress resolution attached to the Defense Appropriations Authorization Act for 1999 urged the U.S. not to block this process, the nonbinding resolution has been ignored by U.S. representatives to ongoing UN negotiations.

Furthermore, Washington has not even ratified several international treaties (the CRC and the Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions) that specify a broad range of special protection for children. And the U.S. has opposed the creation of a strong International Criminal Court (ICC), which has the potential to deter the recruitment of child soldiers. "The 1998 Rome Statute of the ICC includes among its list of war crimes tactics targeting civilians or civilian institutions as well as the conscription or enlistment of children under age 15 and their use as active participants in hostilities."

Specific U.S. measures to block international efforts to prevent children from becoming soldiers have also occurred outside of governmental and UN arenas. During Summer 1999 negotiations on the International Labor Organization's (ILO) Convention No. 182 on the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour, the U.S. lobbied strongly against banning all forms of soldiering by children under 18. Thus, the final text specifically condemns only forced recruitment of children for use in armed conflict.

Successive U.S. administrations have argued that a minimum age of 18 is unacceptable and unrealistic. Recently, Pentagon officials, backed by the State Department and the administration, have contended that raising the minimum by 2 years, to 17, is acceptable and that the difference between 17 and 18 is only "peripheral." This position corresponds with U.S. law, which allows 17-year-olds to join the military. U.S. opposition to age 18 is also fueled by Pentagon concerns about possible interference with its domestic recruitment practices, especially in the wake of current enlistment shortfalls. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.