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Stop Being Shocked

Observers of the Obama administration are perpetually shocked by a foreign policy that often lacks both heart and rationality. Yesterday, Josh Rogin wrote:

The Obama administration quietly waived a key section of the law meant to combat the use of child soldiers for four troubled states on Monday. Today, the White House tells The Cable that they intend to give these countries — all of whose armed forces use underage troops — one more year to improve before bringing any penalties to bear. The NGO community was shocked by the announcement.

It seems there is already some flexibility in the law, and this move by the administration simply encourages behavior that we and other Western democracies consider abhorrent. (“‘This exception gives the U.S. government very wide berth to continue to provide assistance to bring these militaries more in line with the American image of what their military should look like,’ said Rachel Stohl, Associate Fellow at the Washington office of Chatham House, a U.K.-based think tank. ‘The law allows for professionalization of these militaries, so these waivers are really disappointing and add insult to injury.'”)

Maybe the Obama team was trying to curry favor with despotic regimes — again. Perhaps they didn’t understand existing law. But no matter what the rationale, the administration never quite manages to exercise care and exert available pressure when it comes to human rights. Eager conservatives greeted Obama’s recent UN speech touting human rights as a sign he was turning the corner on his feckless human-rights policy. Alas, a speech is just a speech for him; the policy remains the same. Human-rights dissidents, oppressed activists, and yes, child soldiers, are on their own.



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