Trump second Republican president to reverse United States landmine policy.

In February 2004 the Bush administration (Republican) reversed and abandoned the previous policy put in place by the Clinton administration (Democrat) of joining the Mine Ban Treaty by 2006 (although that policy was conditioned on suitable alternatives having been identified). The Bush administration decision, like the Trump one, allowed the US military to retain antipersonnel mines indefinitely.

The Obama administration (Democrat) reversed and abandoned the Bush administration policy regarding antipersonnel landmines in September 2014. The Obama policy stated that the US military, outside the Korean peninsula, would no longer use antipersonnel landmines, destroy its antipersonnel mine stockpiles, and also to “not assist, encourage, or induce anyone engage in activity prohibited” by the Mine Ban Treaty.

Like the Clinton administration, the Obama administration failed to join the comprehensive global ban on antipersonnel landmines enshrined in the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty.

The response to the Trump regime reversal and abandonment of the Obama policy has met significant international condemnation, as did the Bush policy reversal sixteen years previously in 2004. The United States Campaign to Ban Landmines (USCBL) denounced the 2004 policy change by the Bush administration for “sending the wrong message” by providing “a dangerous, isolationist example” to mine-using countries. What has changed? Nothing. Trump is copying the ‘dangerous and isolationist example’ of his predecessor.

The International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) said in 2004 that despite the US policy rejection, “… the Mine Ban Treaty has been extraordinarily successful at alleviating the global landmine problem, without US support, for many years, and no doubt will continue to do so in the future.” What has changed? Nothing. The MBT continued to prove that it was the solution to the problems created by antipersonnel landmines with an overall continued decline in global landmine casualties and a global increase in the amount of land cleared of antipersonnel landmines every year, and more countries joining the convention.

Ironically, the United States was the first country in the world to call for a global ban on landmines, when, in May 1996, President Clinton said the US would “seek a worldwide agreement as soon as possible to end the use of all antipersonnel landmines.” It appears that was not a genuine commitment to a global ban. What has changed since then? For the US, nothing.