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Children at War Paperback – April 10, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-0520248762 ISBN-10: 0520248767 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 278 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; 1 edition (April 10, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520248767
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520248762
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #658,143 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Over six million child combatants were killed or injured in the past decade. In this groundbreaking and comprehensive study, Singer, a fellow at the Brookings Institution and former adviser to the U.S. military, explores the rise and expansion of child soldiery. Children, Singer finds, enter armies and militias in numerous ways: as voluntary soldiers, indoctrinated to kill; as involuntary soldiers, forced into the militia or military by cruel adults; as child-terrorists; as members of all-child armies (such as the Hitler Youth); and as sexual slaves for superior officers. Singer (Corporate Warriors) explores different means of training and indoctrination, often through interviews with child-soldiers, as well as with adults who have fought against them and others who have tried to rehabilitate children forced into warfare. In the concluding section, Singer notes that instruments of international law such as the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child prohibit the use of child-combatants, but that these treaties have been ineffective in actually reducing the prevalence of child-soldiers. One hope is that the new International Criminal Court will be empowered to punish those who recruit children and send them into battle. However they seek to accomplish their goal, activists will be aided by the diligent research and reasoned analysis provided by Singer's study, as will those who fund their work—i.e., anyone who gives to international aid organizations.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* "The rebels told me to join them, but I said no. Then they killed my smaller brother. I changed my mind," explains "L," age seven, in Singer's chilling study of the now-conventional use of children in modern warfare. Some 43 percent (157 of 366) of all armed organizations around the world--from Sierra Leone to Colombia, Sri Lanka to the Congo, Liberia to Sudan--use child soldiers, 90 percent of whom see battle. In the last decade, more than 2 million children have been killed in combat, a rate of some 500 per day. Singer, National Security Fellow in the Foreign Policy Studies Program at the Brookings Institution, came upon the phenomenon when the soldiers he interviewed for his first book, Corporate Warriors (2003), told him of seeing so many child adversaries. Here he details many of the underlying causes of the practice, and he explains how the children are recruited, often simply by whether they are strong enough to carry a weapon. He explores the full implications for using children in combat and discusses how the problem can be addressed, such as treating it as a war crime and punishing those leaders responsible. He neglects to say, though, that the abuse is first and best addressed by exposing it to world scrutiny, which this thoughtful and heartfelt book will do. Alan Moores
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

This book tells the terrible story.
G. Reid
Singer's work is an incredibly valuable contribution to further the study and understanding of armed conflict in the post Cold War-era.
I. Stewart
Altogether a superb book, ideal for anyone wishing to gain further knowledge in the subject area.
P. Thomas

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Matthew P. Arsenault on March 28, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The face of warfare has changed dramatically in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. In the first years of the new millennium, we rarely find state-led armies clashing across the boarders of sovereign nations. Rather, most wars occur within the boarders of an autonomous state. Civil and guerrilla conflicts have replaced the international and colonial wars of the recent past. All too often, the armies fueling these new internal struggles for power are composed of children.

Dr. Singer has created an excellent and through study of the new phenomenon of children at war. Singer looks at the variety of ways that child soldiers are recruited across cultural and political arenas, the perceived benefits of child soldiers to their political patrons, and the long-term repercussions of inundating the world's children in to an existence based upon violence and death.

Singer's work is based upon personal interviews with child soldiers, adults involved in the raging conflicts, as well as international aid agencies, the UN and others closely involved in the "new warfare." Such a work is an invaluable contribution to the emerging cannon on the changing face of warfare. Only with such studies will the world begin to see the problems of children at war, but also begin to create solutions.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By John Matlock on February 24, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book talks about the active recruitment of children in many areas of the world today. He covers how they are recruited, abducted or conscripted, trained and finally set off to fight in whatever hot spot is active at the moment.

The one surprising thing about this book is that it treats this as a new problem. War has always been a young persons game. To read the biographies of woldiers of World War II, a surprising number lied about their age to join the army at fifteen or sixteen years of age. In the American Civil War around 100,000 soldiers were fifteen or younger. A surprising, but unknown number were under ten. The pictures of the end of the Third Reich show young boys greeting Hitler. The first American killed in Afghanistan was shot by a 14 year old sniper.

On the other hand, by bringing attention to the fact that our Army will have to face children in the battlefield Dr. Singer may help prepare our forces and our public for the real world.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By 52 weeks, 52 books on February 14, 2007
Format: Paperback
As far as I know, Singer is the first to point out that child warriors are making possible a new kind of war, a war without ideology or purpose other than taking something someone else has. Adults fight better with a cause and a purpose--children are more easily drugged, brainwashed, and cut off from other support. They can also be far crueler in battle and harder to rehabilitate. Singer points to responses to lessen the problem, but she is far from optimistic.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ralph A. Weisheit on March 20, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a welcome follow-up to the author's previous work "Corporate Warriors." While each book highlights an emerging and disturbing trend in modern warfare, the practices described in "Children at War" are particularly horrific. Training children as young as 12 to kill without mercy and to be used as cannon fodder to shield adult soldiers sounds like some crazy vision of a dark future. Singer, however, builds a strong case that this dark future is here. It would be easy to blame this on one or two sadistic tyrants, but Singer shows how a confluence of global factors have led to this situation. What to do with these children when the fighting ends, or when they are rescued from a war zone is a challenge that the global community is just beginning to recognize. While the author does what he can to recommend a solution to this problem, there are no obvious solutions. This may not win an award for "Feel Good Book of the Year," but it should be a contender for "Most Important Book of the Year."
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Re:writing on August 7, 2008
Format: Paperback
Reading through the other reviews here it struck me that they seemed to share a lack of prior knowledge about the subject. Had anyone read more widely they would have discovered that 'Children at War' is a piece of pseudo-scholarship. This book is based upon a completely misguided assumption - that the involvement of children in warfare is a new phenomenon. In making such an assertion the author reveals either lack of any proper engagement with the literature or simply bad faith. The sad fact is that children have been involved as solidiers in many, if not most, of the wars recorded in history. In spite of Singer's erroneous claims to the contrary, the US Civil War involved large numbers of boy soldiers. Similarly the First World War. Children fought and died with the partisans in Nazi-occupied Europe, and so on. Towards the end of the book, Singer reveals a disturbing political agenda. It seems that his real concern is less with child soldiers and more with the challenges for US troops faced with children in places like Afghanistan and Iraq where killing them is bad for morale and also looks so bad to the folks back home watching CNN.
In terms of sources, Singer relies overwhelmingly on journalistic accounts that are simply intended to offer shock value to their readers and, like his own book, lack any deeper engagement with the history and context within which child recruitment takes place. Aside from one quote, none of the copious quotes from child soldiers seems to have come from Singer's one fieldwork. Indeed, the reader is left wondering if Singer has ever actually visited a setting where child recruitment takes place.
This is a work of truly poor scholarship. It is a mystery how it ever got published and why so many people have been apparently taken in by it. Perhaps it is a case of telling people what they want to hear?
If anyone is looking for a proper discussion of this subject they would do far better to read David Rosen's 'Armies of the Young'.
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More About the Author

Hi! My formal biography and links to all my books and articles are at but the short version is that I am someone who loves to read, and hopes to write books that people love to read too.
You can also follow me on twitter @peterwsinger

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