New landmine treaty is unrealistic

The Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the 1997 Peace Prize jointly to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) and its coordinator, Jody Williams Oct. 17. Though the Nobel Committee applauded Williams for starting “a process which in the space of a few years changed a ban on anti-personnel mines from a vision to a feasible reality,” they failed to demonstrate just how taking landmines out of the arsenals of law-abiding nations would enhance the cause of peace.

Making that task difficult is the fact that a treaty banning landmines would in no way strengthen international peace. It would, however, likely have the opposite effect, namely increasing the danger posed to United States troops, the ultimate guarantors of peace.

The Nobel Peace Prize is no stranger to individuals whose contribution to international peace is highly questionable. Past winners have included such dubious “peace makers” as former Soviet Premier, Mikhail Gorbachev; the world’s most popular terrorist, Yasser Arafat; and anti-nuclear activists like the Pugwash Conference and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.

This year, however, the choice of Jody Williams, an unreconstructed hippie whose indifference to the lives of individuals who risk their own lives to safeguard ours, is particularly egregious.

Ms. Williams has made it clear on numerous occasions that she could care less about the lives of U.S. troops, particularly the ones on the Korean peninsula facing more than a million armed North Koreans. On a recent episode of CNN’s “Crossfire,” the Nobel Laureate declared that “a soldier is only one part of a larger society.” Her brazen claims that the lives of American soldiers are not as important as anybody else’s, or are even worth less, is reminiscent of the anti-military counterculture in which Williams seems caught. She should be reminded that our troops are asked to do an incredible task – to go into harm’s way so that the lives of numerous others, including such “great patriots” as herself, are not put at risk.

The real questions here should be: Does a landmine ban actually foster peace and is it consistent with the security of the United States and the lives of its citizens. Clearly the evidence points to “no” on both counts. The ban that Williams and ICBL have fought so hard for, has, by and large, failed. The countries that produce, stockpile, export and use the bulk of the world’s landmines are not parties to this treaty. The ban will not help clear a single landmine currently in the ground, and no system is envisioned that will verify or enforce this treaty. In its current state, the treaty would not meet the most minimal standards for success.

Even if the treaty was completed and every nation on earth was a party, U.S. involvement still would be ill-advised. Put simply, the short-duration landmines used by the U.S. military are an effective defensive tool that saves the lives of our forces. Current studies suggest the casualties of U.S. troops during conflict could increase by up to 30 percent without landmines.

Proponents of the ban point to the humanitarian concern of landmines that linger in the ground long after wars have ended and kill and maim thousands of innocent civilians every year. While these are tragic circumstances, the United States is not the problem. The United States does not export any landmines and only uses “smart” mines, which de-activate themselves after a set period of time, between four hours to 15 days. These mines are placed in marked areas, and removed when our soldiers move camp. They have not contributed to a single civilian death. The United States does use long-duration, “dumb” landmines, but only along Korean Demilitarized Zone where no civilians are ever present.

Williams is altogether unconcerned by the fact that her treaty is completely unverifiable. She, like the rest of the communist sympathizers during the Cold War who were entirely indifferent to continued Soviet non-compliance with every arms control agreement signed, is even more nonchalant about violations that will take place under a landmine ban.

The truth, however, is that long-duration landmines can be made cheaply and easily, and are extremely useful to terrorize both civilian and military targets. Unfortunately, no feasible way exists for any nation on this planet who wishes to use them to be stopped. Now, in the post-Cold War world, Williams and her cohorts believe that if the United States simply embraces these fatuous treaties, then rogues nations like Iran, Iraq and North Korea will join. Why these evil regimes with little love for the West, especially the United States, would not seek to exploit a potential advantage over the United States, and instead follow in its footsteps to disarmament is beyond the scope of any rational thinking.

The Nobel Committee did a great disservice, as it has done repeatedly before, by bestowing such credibility on a group that’s goals, if achieved, will disarm this nation’s great military and make it easier for our adversaries to inflict greater damage to U.S. forces. Luckily, President Clinton has thus far refused to give in to pressure from the ICBL, wisely heeding the advice of our nation’s military leaders.

Continued opposition to this treaty is vital if the United States is to remain the preeminent world power and if we are to safeguard the lives of our troops who put their lives on the line to guarantee peace and freedom worldwide. Williams should understand that peace has never been achieved through pieces of paper or empty promises; it can only be achieved through the moral clarity that guides our convictions and the strength of our arms which defend them.

-The writer is a junior majoring in political science.

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