A bipartisan consensus exists on at least one issue in American military and foreign policy: land mines are essential to national defense. As a result, President Obama joins his two predecessors, fellow Democrat Clinton and Republican Bush, in refusing to sign the Ottawa Treaty, also known as the Mine Ban Treaty. Your safety, the Obama Administration will have you believe, depends on our unrestricted ability to blow the legs off people. But is it our safety, really, that matters? Consider the explanation given by this Obama spokesman: "We determined that we would not be able to meet our national defence needs nor our security commitments to our friends and allies if we signed this convention,"
Minimal research reveals that one friend in particular is the object of American concern: South Korea. The Korean DMZ is one of the few areas on Earth where people still anticipate an old-school human-wave tank-supported invasion of one country by another. Since 1997, the United States has demanded that the Ottawa Treaty include an exception for Korea on the ground that South Korea's right to self-defense, and America's right to defend South Korea, entitles them to the presumably unrestricted use of land mines to thwart North Korean invaders. Denied the exception, the U.S. implicitly affirms the right to use land mines in all circumstances, and surrenders any moral authority to reprimand anyone who uses them in any circumstance.
The U.S. isn't the only power refusing to sign the treaty. Perhaps predictably, neither Pakistan nor India have signed, but neither has China and Russia. Isn't that excellent company for our progressive land? As I understand it, Senator Obama of Illinois once voted in favor of ratifying the Ottawa Treaty. Some observers will point to his current policy as proof that power makes idealists like him more responsible and realistic about security and military force. But isn't there something else power does to people? What did Lord Acton say...?