Land mines have long been among the most controversial weapons in America’s arsenal. Unlike bombs, guns, and most other weapons, land mines aren’t directed towards one target or another. They are left, and left to kill indiscriminately. Now, the White House has said that the United States will not replace expiring land mines when stocks run out. In essence, the United States will discard of its land mine stock piles.

Land Mines

The United Nations estimates that land mines kill between 15,000 to 20,000 people each year, and permanently maim many thousands more. Worse of all, most of these victims are innocent children. Land mines are currently scattered across 78 different countries, many of them in the emerging world, and have been used in just about every major conflict since 1938.

U.S. moving towards joining Mine Ban Treaty?

The Mine Ban Treaty, or Ottawa Treaty as it’s also known, was drafted and put forward in 1997. The treaty quickly became very popular with dozens of countries signing on and committing to joining the treat. To date, 161 state parties have signed and ratified the treaty, with 36 countries not signing or ratifying it. The United States belongs in the later group.

The non-signatory nations include the likes of North Korea, China, Syria, Iran, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. The United States and Cuba are the only two nations in the Western hemisphere to have not signed the ban. Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, and South Korea are among the only other fully-developed nations to have not signed the ban.

The treaty bans countries from developing and using land mines. Within four years of signing the treaty, all land mine stock piles must be destroyed. Land mines may only be kept for training purposes, such as training people to clear land mines.

White House Official: U.S. Moving Towards Signing Pact

At a conference in Mozambique, a White House official stated that the United States would essentially allow its stock piles to expire and was moving towards signing the pact. Critics, being critics, claim that this is not enough and that the U.S. should immediately ban land mine use, set a date for destroying the land mines, and begin to work towards that date.

The spokes person also said the U.S. will look for solutions that will ultimately allow the country to join the ban. Weapons activists, powerful lobby groups, and a Republican Party hell bent on preventing just about any regulations on weapons, however, mean that the Obama Administration is unlikely to push too aggressively for a land mine ban.