The trouble with principles

Today was a jam-packed day here at attwiw HQ. Well, not really, but as you can tell I didn’t have a lot of time to write today for a variety of mundane reasons and also because some days the words don’t come out so easily, you know? So you’ll have to wait until tomorrow for my random thoughts on recent developments in Aleppo, recently departed Israeli leaders, recent reports on passenger aircraft being shot down over Ukraine, etc. But I did want to note that today was a bit of a milestone, in that it marks Barack Obama’s final mockery of the United States’ supposed opposition to the use of child soldiers. Josh Rogin of the Washington Post explained a few days ago:

As early as this week, the administration will announce for the final time a list of waivers and exemptions to the Child Soldiers Protection Act, a law passed in 2008 that forbids the United States from giving military aid to any foreign government that systematically uses children in its armed forces. According to officials involved in the process, the president will either fully or partially waive sanctions for every abuser country that receives U.S. military assistance.

It’s a familiar pattern the president has followed each year since 2010, the first year he was required to sanction abuser countries under the law. The Obama administration has given more than $1.2 billion in military assistance and arms to governments that use child soldiers since the law was enacted and withheld only $61 million, according to the Stimson Center. The president’s final decision on waiving sanctions under the law is due Oct. 1.

I think it’s interesting that the administration opted to issue its waivers today rather than wait for the usual Friday document dump, but people have lately gotten savvier about checking for stuff like this on Friday, and the news is still in heavy post-debate mode, so it was a pretty good day to get this in under the radar. Not that you should have expected to hear much about it anyway–out of sight, out of mind, you know.

Obama waived the prohibition entirely for Myanmar, Iraq, and Nigeria, and partially for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, Rwanda, and Somalia, for the purpose of allowing humanitarian and peacekeeping assistance to continue flowing to these countries. The other three countries on the State Department’s child soldiers list–Sudan, Syria, and Yemen–currently don’t receive any US aid, though you can bet that Yemen will start getting waivers once its civil war ends and it starts getting US aid again. As Rogin reported, Afghanistan was excluded from the list because it only conscripts children into its national police force, not its army. Totally different. And, look, there are justifications for each of these cases–Iraq is fighting ISIS, Nigeria is fighting Boko Haram, all of these countries need humanitarian aid, etc. But the problem with having principles is that sometimes upholding them is inconvenient. If you never stick to your principles in those situations, then I’m afraid you don’t really have those principles. Congress passed the Child Soldiers Protection Act in 2008 to try to show America’s principles, but their time would’ve been better spent drawing a nice Fourth of July mural or something, because the CSPA has accomplished next to nothing.



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