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Children have served as soldiers throughout history. They fought in the American Revolution, the Civil War, and in both World Wars. They served as uniformed soldiers, camouflaged insurgents, and even suicide bombers. Indeed, the first U.S. soldier to be killed by hostile fire in the Afghanistan war was shot in ambush by a fourteen-year-old boy. Does this mean that child soldiers are aggressors? Or victims? It is a difficult question with no obvious answer, yet in recent years the acceptable answer among humanitarian organizations and contemporary scholars has been resoundingly the latter. These children are most often seen as especially hideous examples of adult criminal exploitation. In this provocative book, David M. Rosen argues that this response vastly oversimplifies the child soldier problem. Drawing on three dramatic examples - from Sierra Leone, Palestine, and Jewish partisans of Eastern Europe during the Holocaust - Rosen vividly illustrates this controversial view. In each case, he shows how children are not always passive victims, but often make rational decisions that the one thing worse than fighting is not fighting. Historically, most children became soldiers because it was the only way possible to save themselves. With a critical eye to international law, Armies of the Young urges readers to reconsider the situation of child combatants in light of circumstance and history before adopting uninformed child protectionist views. In the process, Rosen paints a memorable and unsettling picture of the role of children in international conflicts.
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About the Author

David M. Rosen is a professor of anthropology and law at Fairleigh Dickinson University.

Reviews

"No thinking person, no media commentator, no political leader can afford to be without this book - not if they care about the truth and want to understand one of the more awful realities of our time. It will stir you to action on behalf of the world's vulnerable children." - Phyllis Chesler, author of The New-Anti-Semitism"

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