Steve Goose, arms director at Human Rights Watch, recently commented, “The United States needs to accept that the world has moved on and there is no longer a place for antipersonnel mines.” The occasion for this comment was the anniversary of the passage of the International Mine Ban Treaty, which prohibits the use, production and trade of land mines by the countries that have signed it.
The treaty went into effect 14 years ago, when Bill Clinton was President, but in all that time no U.S. President has been willing to sign it. Congress has also refused to act. There currently is no bill in Congress that would make the manufacture, sale or use of land mines illegal.
Barack Obama has been playing coy with the issue of land mines. His administration began a review of the idea of signing the treaty four years ago. Three months ago, Obama promised that a decision on the matter would be “coming soon, but then, Obama makes promises very easily.
The issue really isn’t very complicated. Land mines are known to kill large numbers of civilians, and to stunt recovery from wartime hardship by keeping large areas of land off limits. Military strategy is shifting away from traditional battlefield thinking that made land mines a useful tool. There are no land mines being manufactured in the United States right now, so it’s not as if a land mine ban would put anyone out of a job.
So, why won’t President Obama just get out his pen and sign the Mine Ban Treaty?