Intrastate conflict has a much more direct effect on the civilian population

Intrastate conflict has a much more direct effect on

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Intrastate conflict has a much more direct effect on the civilian population, who not only participate in greater numbers, but suffer greater consequences of damage and dislocation due to war. In situations of protracted guerilla warfare, where the continued replenishment of fallen troops is required, and where the line between civilian and combatant blurs, children have come to represent a relatively cheap, abundant, pliable, exploitable, and expendable conduit of war. (Wessells:34) The direct and pervasive effects of warfare have also led to some perverse effects- namely, the use of children as a means of increasing the ‘shock value’ or psychological trauma inflicted on opposing groups. As Peter Singer notes, the new dynamics of war seem to correspond to a weakening (or total disregard) of the traditionally accepted rules of war, creating a “desolate moral vacuum” where the recruitment of children into the adult ranks of warring factions has been accepted. (Singer:30) While the incentive to recruit children has been evidenced, the opportunities for exploiting the young on the frontlines have been realized thanks to the massive increase of small arms following the fall of the Soviet Union. Indeed, as Michael Wessells notes, 46 of the 49 conflicts in the 1990s involved solely light weapons, making the nature of war today much more like present-day Iraq than Desert Storm. In messy internal conflicts, where mixed motives of grief and grievance abound and where few checks have been put in place by the state to prevent the destruction of lives and property, one can see how children have been drawn into the spiral of violence.
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Without question, the widespread use of child soldiers presents a real concern, not only for the normal development of these youths but also for preventing future recurrences of war. The oft-cited phrase “violence breeds violence” cannot be truer than for children who spend their formative years in an environment of hostility and moral impunity, and with no other means of socialization. When children have been removed from their communities, and learn to gain power and respect through the barrel of the gun, it becomes difficult to break such disruptive cycles of violence. Entire generations of lost children could grow into adulthood with no other prospect but criminality and violence. Prevention therefore, is of critical importance. Stemming the Tide of Child Soldier Use There are various means that have been employed to help stop the use of child soldiers across the world. International organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have lobbied assiduously to create international treaties that denounce the use of child soldiers, resulting most notably in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) and its Optional Protocol (2000), which prohibits the recruitment of children for armed conflict to the ages of 15 and 18, respectively. Campaigns such as the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers have worked hard to establish international standards, codify legal norms, and encourage states to implement such laws. (Singer:143)
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