Right now, myriad crises around the globe require U.S. leadership: a radical Islamic army on the march in Iraq, chaos in Syria, Russia and China bullying neighbors, and near daily violence in Nigeria. Yet, the Obama Administration has chosen to focus its attention on landmines.

The White House announced today that the U.S. will no longer produce or acquire anti-personnel landmines (APL). The announcement is timed to coincide with the Third Review Conference of the Ottawa Convention (a treaty that bans all landmines) currently underway in Mozambique. The Obama Administration’s decisions today as well as any effort to accede to the Ottawa Convention are bad policy and will harm U.S. national security interests.

  • Current U.S. policy on landmines does not need to be changed. As Heritage experts Steven Groves and Ted Bromund noted in 2010: “The current U.S. landmine policy is responsible, and a series of studies—and recent experience—has confirmed that APLs continue to be important weapons that provide crucial tactical advantages to U.S. forces on the battlefield.” By announcing an end to producing and acquiring landmines, the Obama Administration has ignored the advice of military commanders and taken a wrongheaded step toward U.S. ratification of the deeply flawed Ottawa Convention.
  • Use of “persistent” landmines, which do not self-destruct or self-deactivate, does raise real humanitarian concerns, but the U.S. has already pledged to stop using such landmines.
  • The United States is already party to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and its protocols regarding landmines that restrict the use of both anti-personnel and anti-vehicle landmines. Accession to the Ottawa Convention would denigrate U.S. sovereignty and undermine U.S. interests, all the while subjecting the U.S. to a faulty treaty created by a flawed and dangerous process.
  • APLs are an important military tool and the U.S. should retain the option and capability to use them in future conflicts. No other weapon currently provides the range of military capabilities that APLs do. The White House claims it is “conducting a high fidelity modeling and simulation effort to ascertain how to mitigate the risks associated” with banning landmines. However, two major studies have already been conducted, one a National Research Council study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Defense, the other by NATO’s Research and Technology Organization. Both studies failed to find an alternative weapon with all the capabilities of landmines.

The Obama Administration should not base its national security policy on whether it will please the international community at an anti-landmine conference. Today’s announcement flies in the face of sound policy, expert advice, and U.S. national security.