Yesterday the Obama Administration announced another change in the United States’s landmine policy (Washington Post). This change, which bans most uses of anti-personnel landmines by the US, builds upon previous policy announcements while specifically carving out an exception for use on the Korean Peninsula to defend South Korea from a North Korean invasion.
In his speech at the Clinton Global Initiative where he discussed the policy change, Obama also quoted Martin Luther King, Jr.: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” In the history of the US effort to ban landmines, that arc is very long, more than two decades and counting and spanning four presidencies. Yesterday’s announcement was another small step towards a complete ban on landmines. To quickly cover that history, here’s a summary of the steps to date:
1992 – George H.W. Bush bans export of anti-personnel landmines (legislation written by Sen. Patrick Leahy)
1994 – Bill Clinton calls for the eventual elimination of anti-personnel landmines (address to the United Nations General Assembly)
1996 – Bill Clinton bans use on non-detectable (“low-metal” or plastic) anti-personnel landmines (Amended Protocol II to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons)
2004 – George W. Bush bans use of all persistent (“dumb”) landmines, anti-personnel and anti-vehicle (published US Landmine Policy)
June 2014 – Barack Obama ends all procurement and production of anti-personnel landmines (announcement at Maputo Review Conference)
September 2014 – Barack Obama bans all use of anti-personnel landmines outside of the Korean Peninsula, pledges to destroy all mines not needed for the defense of South Korea (White House announcement)
At this point, the US could now be fully compliant with the Mine Ban Treaty except for the Korean reservation. Until that reservation is removed, the US cannot achieve the stated goal of accession to the Mine Ban Treaty. One more step, Mr. Obama. The world is waiting.
Michael P. Moore
September 24, 2014