“It has been estimated that at least 10 percent of the world’s fighting forces are under the age of eighteen. Since the time of the Roman and Spartan Empires, children have been molded into combat-ready soldiers, all the way up to the Civil War and later, World War II, which saw the emergence of a formal cadre of trained children, the Hitler Youth. In Vietnam youths were used on suicide missions to ambush unsuspecting American GIs. But today, with the proliferation of light weapons and the range of low- to high-level conflicts emerging around the world, the percentage of kids in combat has been growing higher and higher.
Sadly, the United States has not always been the most constructive partner in achieving international action on the issue of child soldiers. The Machel Report, a 1996 study presented to the United Nations General Assembly, documented the suffering of millions of children because of war…
The CRC [Convention on the Rights of the Child] outlines in detail the rights of protection for children living in difficult circumstances, including conflict, disease, and displacement, as well as domestic rights related to their parents and caregivers…The United States is one of only two countries that have not ratified it. In 1995, President Bill Clinton signed the treaty, but the U.S. Congress has been unable to ratify it. Generally, the Pentagon and, on occasion, the State Department believe that the United Nations should not interfere in domestic American matters, such as how and whom the country recruits into the armed forces. Further, members of Congress have long doubted the wisdom of conferring special rights on children; this is particularly true of many conservatives, who view the convention as an assault on the ‘traditional family.’
In January 2000, after six years of negotiation, progress was made with the passage of the Optional Protocol to the CRC. At the insistence of American and British officials, the 1989 CRC set fifteen as the minimum age for recruiting soldiers. The Optimal Protocol addresses the behavior of non-governmental and governmental armed groups but also applies a more stringent standard to non-governmental groups that to governments.” -From, “Innocents Lost: When Child Soldiers Go To War” By: Jimmie Briggs