From US Soldiers Having To Fight Children In Afghanistan And Iraq To Juvenile Terrorists In Sri Lanka To Palestine, The New, Younger Face Of Battle Is A Terrible Reality Of St Century Warfare Indeed, The Very First American Soldier Killed By Hostile Fire In The War On Terrorism Was Shot By A Fourteen Year Old Afghan Boy Children at War Is The First Comprehensive Examination Of A Disturbing And Escalating Phenomenon The Use Of Children As Soldiers Around The Globe Interweaving Explanatory Narrative With The Voices Of Child Soldiers Themselves, PW Singer, An Internationally Recognized Expert In Modern Warfare, Introduces The Brutal Reality Of Conflict, Where Children Are Sent Off To Fight In War Torn Hotspots From Colombia And The Sudan To Kashmir And Sierra Leone He Explores The Evolution Of This Phenomenon, How And Why Children Are Recruited, Indoctrinated, Trained, And Converted To Soldiers And Then Lays Out The Consequences For Global Security, With A Special Case Study On Terrorism With This Established, He Lays Out The Responses That Can End This Horrible Practice What Emerges Is Not Only A Compelling And Clarifying read On The Darker Reality Of Modern Warfare, But Also A Clear And Urgent Call For Action An incredible review of the use of child soldiers in several culturally and geographically distinct areas, this book gives insight into the common threads of this phenomenon and suggestions on what can be done to curb its practice.
Singer gives a sobering social and political analysis on the increased use of seven to seventeen year olds to fight the civil wars of the twentieth and twenty first centuries It includes over thirty pages of endnotes and includes the words of former child soldiers who fought in Columbia, Lebanon, Liberia, Kashmir, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, and Sudan It begins with a quote from a seven year oldThe rebels told me to join them, but I said no Then they killed my smaller brother I changed my mindWhy did the recruitment and employment of child solders one of the most flagrant violations of the norms of international human rights and contrary to the general practices of the last four millennia of warfare suddenly become so prevalent Singer cites three main causes The first is poverty The booming global economy of the late twentieth and early twenty first centuries left many people behind Indeed, three billion people, roughly half the world s population, currently 2005 subsists on 2 or less a day He then goes on to translate this poverty into its results , illiteracy, inadequate housing or the complete lack of housing, lack of access to safe drinking water, malnutrition, disease, and civil war The second is the technological advance in small arms automatic rifles, land mines, and rocket propelled grenades, are now light enough and simple enough to use and maintain that even a child can do it The ubiquitous and Russian designed Kalashnikov AK 47, which weighs 10 pounds, is a prime example Having only nine moving parts, it is brutally simple Interviews reveal that it generally takes children around thirty minutes to learn how to use one The weapon is also designed to be exceptionally hardy It requires little maintenance and can even be buried in dirt for storage Thus, a handful of children now can have the equivalent firepower of an entire regiment of Napoleonic infantry With the end of the Cold War a number of weak government began to totter as the funding they had been receiving from the superpowers disappeared This made them vulnerable to attacks by rebels However, the rebels could no longer count on support from superpowers either, and so they turned to crime to generate income Drug trafficking, kidnapping and protection rackets proliferated, and as they did so, ideological concerns began to disappear and war become an alternate system of profit and power War becomes not a means to an end, but an end itself Highly personalized or purely predatory armed groups, such as warlords, which are focused on asset seizure, are particularly dependant on this new doctrine of using children Most child soldiers come from the poorest part of the population About a third of them are abducted by armed bands, the other two thirds join to avoid starvation, occasionally encouraged by their parents because they are unable to care for them A good portion of girl soldiers who join as volunteers cite domestic abuse or exploitation Many join to revenge the death of family member usually one or both parents Once enlisted they are then indoctrinated Their training typically uses fear, brutality, and psychological manipulation to achieve high levels of obedience Abducted recruits are often forced, to take part in the ritualized killing of others very soon after their abduction The victims may be POWs for the other side, other children who were abducted for the sole purpose of being killed in front of the recruits, or, most heinous of all, the children s own neighbors or even parents The killings are often carried out in a public manner, such that the home community knows that the child has killed, with the intent of closing off any return Having broken down the child down physically, and psychologically, he or she is then filled with basic infantry tactics Some are given specific duties as spies, or couriers, or suicide bombers Girls are often assigned to be wives of adult officers Generally all are sent out to attack civilian targets that are poorly defended Typical orders are to kill everyone in a village and then burn it to the ground Singer quotes a UNICEF worker who said, Boys will do things that grown men can t stomach Kids make brutal fighters because they haven t developed a sense of judgment They are also assigned to be shields for their commanders or cannon fodder in what are termed human wave attacks The tactic is designed to overpower or wear down a well fortified opposition through sheer weight of numbers The very value of children is that they are extra targets for the enemy to deal with and expend ammunition upon Singer concludes his book with recommendation on how to prevent children from becoming soldiers and how former child soldiers can be rehabilitated He also warns that training for American soldiers must include how to fight them The hard reality is that our soldiers must be trained and prepared for what to do in the certain eventualities in which they will come face to face with child soldiers.
Good overview, though important to remember it was published in 2006 and thus slightly dated regarding CAAFAG programming.
A powerful well written thesis Written in an easy to read form, leading to a good understanding of a very important topic.
Yesterday I read Children at War, by P.
W Singer, a study of the children who serve as soldiers, spys, and wives in conflicts all over the world Although the book itself is a bit repetitive, the topic is fascinating and horrifying in equal measure.
Singer attributes the prevalence of child soliders to three factors First, the large number of children who are orphaned, literally or figuratively, by poverty and illness especially AIDS This creates a pool of vulnerable children who can be abducted and manipulated without adults interfering on their behalf, at least not effectively Second, the existence of conflicts in which the rules of war are ignored or flouted, creating a pool of adults who are willing to exploit the children Third, the ready and, in the wake of the Soviet Union s collapse, cheap supply of deadly weapons that are light and simple enough to be operated by a child Whereas premodern weapons depended on the brute strength of the operator, a handful of children can now have the equivalent firepower of an entire regiment of Napoleonic infantry The larger part of the book is a chilling description of how the child soldiers and recruited and used Children are abducted from orphanages and schools, or they are taken from their families during raids on villages The abductors often force the children to commit atrocities, so that they won t be accepted back, and later may scar or brand them to achieve the same purpose The children are indoctrinated and trained in the use of weapons In battle, they are often used to clear mines by blowing them up or as sheer cannon fodder in attacks on forts and towns In some cases, they are forcibly drugged to overcome their natural reluctance to proceed under fire Some want only to escape, but others grow to accept their captors beliefs.
Later, the author describes the effect that the use of child soldiers can have on a conflict Because they are cheap to recruit and arm, adults can use them to wreak destruction out of proportion with their own numbers or the popularity of their opinions He suggests that in some failing nations, a figure on the par of David Koresh can terrorize a population for years, raising funds through looting and using them to arm his charges Children are easily persuaded to perform illegal acts of war, so conflicts in which child soldiers are involved can be brutal than traditional warfare Child soldiers usually have no home to return to, so their involvement tends to prolong wars when a cease fire is actually achieved, they might seep into surrounding territories, inflaming conflicts there Members of professional, Western armies are traumatized by encounters with child regiments, because their natural instinct is not to shoot them Because so many of the children are simply looking for a chance to escape, Singer advocates targeting their adult leaders, which may cause the children to disperse.
Singer addresses an obvious question is the current use of child soldiers unique in history He believes it is While youths of fourteen to eighteen may have been used as musicians or support staff in wars like the American Revolution, and as pages in medieval times, and while the Hitlerjugend was forced into service during the desperate last hours of World War II, the use of younger children, ages ten to fourteen, and the wholesale use of children under eighteen as infantry, seems to be unique to our own time It s not surprising though, that Singer has no clear prescription for ending the practice, other than to address the underlying causes of war and poverty The research here is better than the book itself, but the topic makes the writing or less irrelevant.
Excellent introduction and analysis of the presence of child soldiers in the conflicts of the emerging nations I felt that Signer does a very good job of explaining what conditions result in childern going to war, how they are indoctrinated and used, and why their presence in the conflict zones tend to lengthen and intensify those conflicts.