By Kim Du Toit
I was reading a magazine article about something else, when a particular phrase stuck like a burr to my attention. The writer was talking about causes which are very clearly worthy of universal support, and the example he used was the banning of landmines.
Not since SecTrans Norman "Idiot" Mineta's last Press conference have I heard such crap.
Land mines, contrary to popular belief, are a good thing. They enable small garrisons to defend their position against much larger enemies, they maintain border integrity (bad in the case of East/West Germany, good in the case of North/South Korea), and are, like all weapons, completely neutral in their application. A bullet's ricochet has as much chance of hitting a good guy as it does a bad guy, and a landmine has as much chance of blowing up an invading storm trooper as it does a little girl playing in a field.
Yet it is the little girl who gets all the attention, because of course injured children are the sine qua non of any campaign made on purely emotional appeal. And it's true: landmines are horribly indiscriminate, because when irresponsible people put down a minefield, they seldom bother to mark the mines' position, which leads to animals and kids setting them off, sometimes years after the original conflict has ended.
So, on the face of it, a landmine ban makes sense. Few people seem to know this, but the horrible Bill Clinton was on the verge of putting the Presidential pen to the International Land Mine Ban Treaty (or whatever it was called) until the Army brass threatened to resign en masse if he did.
There were two extremely good reasons for the brass to behave with such unaccustomed spine: the first was that, as I said earlier, land mines do a much bigger job for the U.S. than they do for other countries (Guantanamo Bay, the 38th Parallel, and so on) -- ridding places like these of landmines would in essence require almost a tripling of garrison ground forces and expensive electronic surveillance, and was the President going to support that? (Answer: Of course not.)
The second reason is more startling (although you never hear this from the Bleeding Hearts): the U.S. has an incredible technological lead over all other countries in the world when it comes to landmine design. To put it bluntly, our landmines are to others as an AK-47 is to a wooden club. Not only do we have the capability, thanks to GPS technology, to locate our mines (thus making their removal simple once the need has passed), but we also have the ability to remotely render them as inert as a lead bar, if we so choose, and to reactivate them later, years later if necessary. To allow our Army to lose this weapon would be foolish, if not traitorous--and worse still, because this is the nature of things, while we would no doubt honor the ban, there is little reason to suppose that our enemies would do likewise (think: Saddam Hussein, Moammar Gaddafi, Fidel Castro, etc.). Like all bans, this one would fail because the ones at whom the ban is aimed would be unaffected thereby.
Of course, to the Perpetually Indignant (thanks, P.J.) this means nothing--so we are treated to a constant barrage of posters showing children with legs missing, angry doctors on TV, and casualty sheets which seem to have no end.
Note to the uninformed: Weapons of war end up killing or injuring people. Landmines are no different.
Of course, there is an easy way to make the planting of landmines a more responsible affair: after the war is over, find out which troops planted the unmarked landmines, and march them across the minefield. Officers first.
Now that's a treaty I wouldn't mind signing.
Technology is great, but it does not always work properly. Sometimes simple an cheap is the best. You can't tell me the N. Koreans haven't taken all the landmines into account along the DMZ. Probably a reason they have not attacked. Give me all the landmines then come after me. I bet they'll want them back after that.