P.W. Singer, fully Peter Warren Singer

P.W.
Singer, fully Peter Warren Singer
1974

American Political Scientist, International Relations Scholar, Specialist on 21st century warfare, Author, Founding Director of the Project on U.S. Policy Towards the Islamic World in the Saban Center at Brookings, Founding Organizer of the U.S.-Islamic World Forum

Author Quotes

Children now serve in 40% of the world's armed forces, rebel groups, and terrorist organizations and fight in almost 75% of the world's conflicts; indeed, in the last five years, children have served as soldiers on every continent but Antarctica. An additional half million children serve in armed forces not presently at war. The children are often abducted to fight and participate in all the full horrors of war; indeed they are sometimes forced to carry out atrocities that adults shy away from.

In the summer of 2004, radical cleric Muqtada al Sadr directed a revolt that consumed the primarily Shia south of Iraq, with the fighting in the holy city of Najaf being particularly fierce. Observers noted multiple child soldiers, some as young as 12 years old, serving in Sadr's "Mahdi" Army that fought pitched battles with U.S. and British forces. Indeed, Sheikh Ahmad al-Shebani, al Sadr's spokesman, publicly defended the use of children, stating, "This shows that the Mahdi are a popular resistance movement against the occupiers. The old men and the young men are on the same field of battle." A 12 year old fighter in the group commented, "Last night I fired a rocket-propelled grenade against a tank. The Americans are weak. They fight for money and status and squeal like pigs when they die. But we will kill the unbelievers because faith is the most powerful weapon." Coalition forces also have increasingly faced child soldiers in the Sunni Triangle as well. Marines fighting in the battle to retake Falluja in November 2004 reported numerous instances of being fired upon by "children with assault rifles." So one of the many, many difficulties of Iraq is the presence of children.

A robot is emotionless. But it also has no sense of empathy... no sense of guilt. It will see an 80-year-old grandmother in her wheelchair in the very same way it sees a T-80 tank. They're both just 0s and 1s in the programming language.

Employ PsyOps. Psychological operations should always be integrated into overall efforts against local resistance, including being specially designed for child soldier units. Their aim should be to convince child soldiers to stop fighting, leave their units, and begin the process of rehabilitation and reintegration into society. At the same time strategy should be developed that ensures that adversary leaders know the their violation of the laws of war is being monitored and the dire consequences they will face in using this doctrine. PsyOps should also seek to undercut any support for the doctrine within local society, by citing the great harms the practice is inflicting on the next generation, its contrast to local customs and norms, and the lack of honor in sending children out to fight adult's wars.

It is important to note, though, that neither terrorism nor children's roles in it are a uniquely Muslim phenomena. Just as there are a variety of terrorist groups across the world, whose members represent nearly all the world's religions, so too is there a broader set of terrorist groups that seek to mobilize children. For example, the "Real IRA," a coalition of dissident IRA terrorists in Northern Ireland, began to recruit boys in the 14-16 year old range in the late 1990s. The youngest reported terrorist was a nine year old boy, who was sent by the ELN in Colombia to bomb a polling station in 1997. Likewise, when Muslim groups began to use child suicide bombers, they were not actually breaking any new ground. Instead, they were following the lead of the Tamil LTTE in Sri Lanka, which has consistently been one of the most innovative of terrorist groups. The LTTE, which has utilized suicide bombers to kill both the Indian prime minister and the Sri Lankan president, is a master at the technique. It even has manufactured specialized denim jackets designed to conceal explosives. Some are specially tailored in smaller sizes for child suicide bombers.

All sorts of actors, not just high-end military , can access high-end military technologies...Hezbollah is not a state. However, Hezbollah flew four drones at Israel. Take this down to the individual level and I think one of the darkest quotes comes from the DARPA scientist who said, and I quote, "For $50,000 I could shut down Manhattan." The potential of an al-Qaeda 2.0 is made far more lethal with these technologies, but also the next generation of a Timothy McVeigh or Unabomber is multiplying their capability with these technologies.

Explain and Blame. Public affairs specialists must be prepared beforehand for the unique repercussions of such engagements. In explaining the events and how children ended up being killed, they should stress the context under which they occurred and the overall mission's importance. The public should be informed that everything possible is being done to avoid and limit child soldiers becoming casualties (use of non-lethal weapons, psychological operations, firing for shock effect, etc.). At the same time, the public should be made aware that child soldiers, although they are children, are just as lethal behind an assault rifle as adults. Most importantly, they must seek to turn blame on where it should properly fall, on those leaders that not only illegally pulled children into the military sphere, but also send them out to do their dirty work.

Its important to note that with the global deployment of U.S. force after 9-11, from Afghanistan to the Philippines, child soldiers are present in every conflict zone U.S. forces now operate in. Indeed, the very first U.S. soldier killed in the war on terrorism was a Green Beret killed by a 14 year old sniper in Afghanistan. At least six young boys between the ages of 13 and 16 have been captured by U.S. forces in Afghanistan in the initial fighting and were taken to the detainee facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. They were housed in a special wing entitled "Camp Iguana." As the Pentagon took more than a year to figure out whether to prosecute or rehabilitate them, the kids spent their days in a house on the beach converted into a makeshift prison, watching DVDs (their favorites were Castaway and Call of the Wild) and learning English and math.

Author Picture
First Name
P.W.
Last Name
Singer, fully Peter Warren Singer
Birth Date
1974
Bio

American Political Scientist, International Relations Scholar, Specialist on 21st century warfare, Author, Founding Director of the Project on U.S. Policy Towards the Islamic World in the Saban Center at Brookings, Founding Organizer of the U.S.-Islamic World Forum