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Nothing Funny About Rewarding Countries that use Child Soldiers

I tried to think of something funny to blunt the edge of letting you know that Barack Obama has extended waivers letting Chad, Sudan, Yemen and the Democratic Republic of the Congo off the hook for using child soldiers. But I just couldn’t do it.

The Child Soldiers Prevention Act of 2008 prohibits the U.S. government from training or funding foreign armies that use child soldiers. This is meant to be an incentive for nations that exploit children to change their ways. But Barack Obama is declaring exemptions for these four countries because he doesn’t want those countries to get upset and stop cooperating with him. So he’ll let them keep right on using child soldiers.

I struggled to come up with a piece of humor to leaven this news. How about an application to other kinds of unconscionable conduct, just to show the inverted moral compass of this decision? Surely the United States would not work to prop up nations that condone the selling off of child brides? But it does. Surely the United States would not keep favored trade status for countries plagued by rampant use of child labor on less-than-poverty wages? But it does.

So you see, Barack Obama’s behavior is not at all inconsistent with the U.S. government’s broader application of moral standards regarding children to international relations. When the United States government has to choose between cheap t-shirts and the rejection of child labor, it chooses cheap t-shirts. When the United States government has to choose between oil and putting an end to the sexual exploitation of children, it chooses oil. And when the United States government has to choose between smooth relations with foreign militaries and stopping the use of child soldiers, it chooses smooth military relations.

There’s nothing funny about this.

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