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Thursday, March 04, 2004

Land Mines and Human Security

I presented my talk on "Human Security and American Foreign Policy" this morning about 9:30 am. It went fine, but the real highlight of the day was listening to the story of Ken Rutherford. His talk immediately followed mine and was quite engrossing.

Rutherford lost both of his legs from a land mine in Somalia (where he was doing humanitarian work) and in 1995 he helped co-found the Landmines Survivors Network. The group played a key role in the global campaign to ban landmines because they presented human faces to go along with the statistics.

And the statistics are frightening. Landmines kill far more children after wars than they do soldiers during wars. Over 20,000 people a year are injured by mines and over half of them die from their injuries. More than 90% of the victims from mines are innocent civilians.

Rutherford has traveled all over the world telling his story. On the web, I found a picture of him sitting with Princess Diana, who was a proponent of the Mine Ban Treaty. He knows all the key figures from the campaign and still travels extensively giving talks. Sir Paul McCartney will attend the signing of his new co-edited book in LA in April. Monday, he is speaking to 20 soldiers about to head off to Iraq, who will be engaged in de-mining.

If you don't know much about the Mine Ban Treaty, it was concluded quite quickly in 1997 after years of effort by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy was the central hero of Rutherford's talk, as he took Canadian foreign policy in an unprecedented diplomatic direction.

The US, of course, is one of the key states that is not a party to the treaty (more than 140 states now are) and my paper argued that America's focus on traditional national security conflicts with the Canadian vision of "human security."

On the other hand, the US pays for more de-mining than all of the treaty members combined and hasn't used mines in war for years. Rutherford theorizes that the US refuses to join the treaty because the Pentagon doesn't want international lawyers scutinizing the non-humanitarian effects of its weapons systems.

Rutherford got his PhD from Georgetown University and now teaches at Southwest Missouri State in Springfield. He has written a number of academic articles (including one for the prestigious academic outlet World Politics) and has a couple of edited books on the topic. His own book is apparently about to be picked up by MIT Press.

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