Why Won't The USA Join The Landmine Ban?

According to this CNN article here: http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/11/24/us.landmines/index.html

…the USA will not be joining many, many other nations (including every other member of NATO) in this ban.

From the article: *“This administration undertook a policy review and we decided our landmine policy remains in effect,” Kelly said in response to a question. “We made our policy review and we determined that we would not be able to meet our national defense needs nor our security commitments to our friends and allies if we sign this convention.”

Opponents of the U.S. landmine policy said they were surprised.

“It is a disturbing development,” said Steve Goose of Human Rights Watch. “The administration never said a policy review was under way.”

Goose said the decision to leave the policy in place is at odds with the administration’s professed commitments to international agreements and humanitarian issues.

“The international treaty against landmines has made a a huge difference and it is a very strong deterrent,” Goose said. “It has to have been a very fast and cursory review.”*

I don’t profess to know a lot about landmines, I was in the US Army but landmines weren’t in my purview.

I have to presume that because we are still involved in two wars that we couldn’t ostensibly join such a ban because we are still actively using landmines right now.

Are mines that aren’t buried like Claymores included in this ban? Is there some other reason we wouldn’t join this (eg, because Russia and China won’t join)?

I’m just wondering what the debate surrounding this issue is. The Obama admin strikes me as one that would have been a little less ambiguous about their reasoning.

I’m wondering if the definition of landmine is broad enough to include the submunitions released from cluster bombs? We have a bunch of those things…

Aren’t landmines very useful when facing a numerically larger, technologically inferior enemy? Especially if political considerations require you to wait to be attacked before responding. Sonewhere like Korea strikes me as pretty much a text book situation where you would want strong mine fields.

First off, we take extremely strong measures to use landmines wisely. We are not dropping huge minefields and then leaving them for schoolkids to discover years later.

Second, the nations who signed onto it are, as usual, lying through their teeth. The minute they need or want to use them, they will pull them out again.

Korea. We have a field of landmines there. Very necessary.

Perhaps the US wont Join the ban so that her allies can?

I don’t know why I didn’t think about Korea. Presumably the entire DMZ is nothing but a minefield.

I think the problem is not mines, but irresponsible use of mines. Enlightened countries like the U.S. may use landmines, and plenty of them, but they don’t just toss them out all willy-nilly - I’d be willing to bet that every U.S. minefield in Korea is carefully marked and fenced in (the purpose of landmines is more to channel enemy movement into controlled areas than to actually blow people up; the last thing an army wants to do is wander into one of its own unmarked minefields during a counterattack). The ban should apply to those countries that deploy mines irresponsibly, or neglect to maintain them.

Who gets to decide who that is?

Nobody. That’s the problem.

I know. It was more rhetorical.

Concepts like “irresponsible” are highly subjective. Take your post; you say that the US is enlightened regarding them but you’ll find many that disagree with that. Nobody is wrong as it is just an opinion.

How many civilains die each year as a result of landmines in general? How many from landmines placed by the U.S.? I’m sure the numbers are available.

Because we plan on using them, lots of them. We also sell a pile of them. Military sales are the only item that improves our balance of trade .

Although you may not be if everyone else agrees not to use them.

Well, that and Coca-Cola.

I believe one of the reasons the US does not want to join (the Ottawa Conventions at least) is that it bans all uses of landmines. There are generally two types of landmines: smart and dumb. Dumb landmines lay around forever waiting for something to set them off. A “smart” landmine is only active from 48hrs-5days. Then they deactivate themselves. They also mark the landmine field with signs.

That’s part of the reasoning, anyways.

The typical anti-landmine treaty is the Ottawa Convention, which imposes a blanket ban on all non-remote-triggered anti-personnel mines. The U.S. position is generally that the ban would be acceptable with a blanket exception for the DMZ defenses.

This all from wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ottawa_Treaty

I also understand the situation to be, at least unofficially, that the US considers a ban on properly marked, signed, and documented fields to be avoiding the actual issues surrounding irresponsible land mine usage–that is, the primary purpose of land mine bans is to prevent civilian casualties especially those long after the war in which the mines were planted is over, and US minefield strategy relies (as said above) on clearly marked minefields as funnels to force enemy action in certain directions, rather than unmarked minefields causing attrition.

As an interesting aside, a few facts:
*The Ottawa Conventions don’t ban anti-tank mines, mixed anti-tank/anti-personnel mines, or booby traps

  • The United States IS a signatory on the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, Protocol II of which requires either that land mine zones either be clearly marked and fenced or be mined with mines that will defuse themselves after a time limit. It also, interestingly, requires that mines used be detectable with basic mine detection apparatus.

As said above it’s all Korea. The DMZ is a huge mine field that is designed as a deterrent against NK aggression. The areas are well marked and labeled. However, mines do occasionally move outside those areas by heavy rains or other natural events.

As long as that DMZ exists, the US will never make any move to ban unilaterally ban landmines. I think I remember hearing that there were discussions to agree if there was an exception made for the DMZ, but that never went anywhere. That was back in the days of Princess Diana crusading for the same thing.

By this logic, you should never sign a treaty of any sort, ever. After all, the other countries could just break the treaty whenever they want, so therefore all treaties are useless.

Detailed treaties between limited numbers of nations with a broad array of safeguards and guarantees are often effective. “Blanket” treaties like the one in question rarely are.