On the American political landscape, people have a hard time seeing the middle ground; things are binary, either-or. Candidates, especially, are either Democrat or Republican, meaning they’re either liberal or conservative. When Americans elected Barack Obama in 2008, they did so believing that they’d elected a liberal. But a new and little-discussed policy decision suggests that Obama is not as liberal as many would believe — at least where foreign policy is concerned.
For the second year in a row the Obama administration has issued a set of waivers for the Child Soldiers Protection Act. The act, which was started in 2008, was designed to prevent countries that enlist children younger than 15 to fight wars from receiving American military aid. But when the United States chooses to, it can issue waivers to nations that continue using child soldiers, which essentially makes the law meaningless.
Exacerbating the fact that the law is being rendered toothless is that a lot of the nations receiving the waivers are found in Africa. South Sudan, Chad and the Congo were all waived this year, meaning that the horrific slaughters that have already taken place in those nations are going to continue with children at their helms.
The administration said last year that it was issuing waivers because the law was new, and thus countries needed time to comply. This year, however, things were different, as countries had months and months to shuffle the kids out of their military ranks. In a press conference reported on by Foreign Policy magazine, the White House attempted to make sense of why they’re allowing certain nations to skirt the rules yet again. On Chad, for instance: “Regarding Chad, the administration is arguing the country has made sufficient progress on eliminating child soldiers because they signed a U.N. action plan. Activists at the meeting were skeptical that the plan constituted an attempt by Chad to address the issue head on,” wrote FP.
As you can imagine, human-rights activists are alarmed that the so-called liberal Obama administration has for two years now allowed countries to essentially put children forth to be murdered. “The White House said last year that they were putting these countries on notice,” Jo Becker, head of the children’s rights division at Human Rights Watch, told FP. “[B]ut now it's a year later and the U.S. is still handing over taxpayer money to countries that use child soldiers with no strings attached.”
Obama has a lot on his plate right now, as do all of his advisors, and these kinds of foreign policy decisions are complex, to be sure. That said, it’s important to consider these kinds of decisions before you ever try to paint Obama as being a left-wing wacko. Like all of us, he contains multitudes.
( Photo: REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi)