May 7, 2010
White House Is Being Pressed to Reverse Course and
Mine Ban Join Land
By MARK LANDLER
In re-examining the issue, the administration is stepping back into the glare of a perennial cause that has captured the attention of world leaders, royalty and celebrities. It is also inviting another internal debate that pits the Pentagon against other parts of the administration.
The policy review, which officials expect to be completed this summer, could result in the
It would also mollify critics, chiefly Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of
The military has long opposed signing the land mine treaty, arguing that it would put the lives of American soldiers at risk by depriving them of a deterrent weapon. There are still nearly a million mines in the demilitarized zone on the
But some of the administration’s leading liberal insiders, like Harold H. Koh, the State Department’s legal adviser, are pushing for the
In a sign of the effort’s urgency, the White House is holding regular meetings with officials from the Pentagon and State Department. The administration has summoned outside experts, like Karl F. Inderfurth, a former senior diplomat who led the delegation to
“I’m guardedly optimistic,” said a senior administration official who favors the treaty and who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. “Why stick with the status quo when we would get so much credit for even a modest move?”
A Pentagon spokesman said it would be “premature” to comment before the review was completed. It is not clear where the defense secretary, Robert M. Gates, stands.
The White House said that the
Some analysts say the rationale for land mines is even weaker now than it was in 1997. Technological advances have enabled the Pentagon to create explosives that function like mines but are detonated remotely, making them permissible under the treaty. The
“The situation has changed significantly in recent years,” said Mr. Inderfurth, who is now a professor of international affairs at George Washington University. “There is every reason to believe we could join this treaty.”
Next week, Senator Leahy plans to send a letter to Mr. Obama, urging him to join the ban. The letter notes that 158 countries have signed the treaty, including
In the 13 years since Diana, Princess of Wales, walked near a minefield in
By all accounts, the initial land mine review was “cursory and half-hearted,” in Mr. Leahy’s words. Last November, on the eve of a meeting on the treaty in
A day later, after a storm of protest from Mr. Leahy and human rights groups, the administration insisted that the review was still under way, and that the spokesman’s comments were premature. But one senior official said the “negative blowback” forced a more serious examination. The current review is being coordinated by two senior officials at the National Security Council, Samantha Power and Barry Pavel.
Another key player is Andrew J. Shapiro, the State Department’s top liaison to the Pentagon who served as an adviser to Mrs. Clinton on defense policy when she was in the Senate. Officials said Mr. Koh, a former dean of
In the past, the Pentagon has sought a “Korean exception” that would allow it to keep a stockpile of mines in the demilitarized zone. But while those mines are there to protect American soldiers, control over them has been transferred to
The goal of those who favor the treaty is to get back to the policy of the
Since the treaty has been in force for more than a decade, the
Such a move might not satisfy the advocates, said Heather Hurlburt, the executive director of the National Security Network, a foreign policy group. “But you definitely have people within the administration working to bring the United States closer to the spirit of the treaty,” she said.
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs
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