Book Review: Children at War

Children at War Eddie at Hidden Unities has a thoughtful series (Part I, Part II, and Part III) on P.W. Singer's Children at War which I urge you to read.

From Part I:

“We have young boys that are more familiar with a gun than with school.” -- Afghan warlord

A copious, systematic look at the alarming combination that rips societies, nations and even regions apart, P.W. Singer’s “Children At War” makes a serious contribution to the layman’s understanding of the emergent child soldier doctrine. Not only is it “probably the worst unrecognized form of child abuse” but the utilization of child soldiers endangers international stability like few other developments in warfare. Singer lays out the facts of child soldiers in serious detail (its global in scope (across the developing world) and massive in number (somewhere between 3-4 million children serve with militias, insurgents and government security forces), skillfully probes the roots and results of the doctrine’s development and then offers a round of thoughtful suggestions, ideas and observations for how to respond to its terrible consequences (the focus of the second post about this book).

From Part II:

P.W. Singer offers a range of options for addressing the ominous spread of the child soldier doctrine...

  • advocates for child soldier rehabilitation should link their calls to action to the broader security concerns yielded by child soldiers
  • Local NGO’s and religious and community leaders, who can make appeals against the practice on the basis of local values and customs must be supported if lasting change is going to take effect on the ground.
  • Foster “smart & judicial” efforts that focus on the worst abuses...Shrewd use of the limited political capital and media attention
  • Criminalizing the doctrine...Focus on the doctrine itself rather than the abuses that result, lowering the bar for prosecution.
  • Activists could focus their efforts upon the weak link in the enabling of the child soldier doctrine, the child soldier group leaders’ trading partners
  • an additive of deterrence is required as the cost/benefit calculation by groups must change

Part III of Eddie's review and analysis will be on Western vulnerability to the child soldier doctrine. I can't wait. Eddie's analysis motivated me to buy the book.

By the way, Pete Singer, for those thinking his name is familiar made his mark with the de facto read on private military companies (Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry) and is now working on robotics and 21st Century conflict.