Young children are, most of the time considered naive and oblivious to what is going on around them. Therefore, if a child is shown something from an adult or a parental figure, they usually will mimic their behavior, because it is what they think is the right thing to do. This is why sometimes you see parents try their babies formula in front of them so that the babies will drink it. Maybe a child's idol that they look up to does a good deed, then this might encourage the kids to follow in their footsteps, but this is not the case. Instead, we see child soldiers and yes, it is exactly what you are thinking, a child fighting in war. "The number of child soldiers involved in conflicts globally has increased 159 percent within five years, with almost 30,000 verified recruitment cases since 2012" (Anna Varfolomeeva 2019, Pg 1). The amount of adolescents that are exploited into war is bloodcurdling, the fact that these children are being manipulated by drugs, modeled behavior, and being scared into joining. So, since children aren't forced into war, to fight with the U.S. Military, we are just going to ignore it happening in other countries?
Something that can encourage children to mimic the behavior of adults is if they are under the influence of drugs, this is because they aren't in the right state of mind to separate, what's right and what's wrong. A website called Debatewise states that, "They are brainwashed through the use of drugs and alcohol. The drugs and alcohol make the children become more compliant, enabling them to commit atrocities which they never would have before" (DebateWise 2017, pg 1). According to Ishmael Beah, a former Child soldier, he says that when he lost his family, he wandered to a Military base, where he thought he could find safety. The problem was that he was given an ultimatum, basically saying, join us or die, sort of like the saying "Kill or be killed." He goes on to say that the child soldiers were given drugs to try and get them to follow directions. Hence the people that were in charge, were manipulating the children to do extremely inhumane acts. Due to being under the influence of drugs, the child soldiers did many horrible things such as acts of rape, mass killings of civilians, and even mutilation, but can we really blame them? They were manipulated by drugs and the people running the military to do these things, and their minds aren't fully developed to fully understand that what they are doing is wrong. So, when they watch adults do the same thing, it manipulates their minds to do the same, because that is what they were taught to do. If the adult is being a negative role model, then of course it will affect how the child behaves!
Not only are the soldiers manipulated by drugs and alcohol, but they are exposed to vulgar behavior without consent. In the interview with Ishmael Beah, he mentioned that to prevent the child soldiers from getting scared while they are witnessing people getting killed in wars/fights, they kill people in front of the children prior to the event and display behavior that is not appropriate for their virtuous eyes. Despite seeing people get killed right in front of them, they have seen worse, like acts of rape and sexual assault. These children are being taught that committing these horrible acts are rewarding. So when the kids rape, assault and kill others, we must consider why they did this, because there is always a reason. The reason is that their adult commanders show them, the full grown, well educated men, are teaching kids to rape and kill others. "In Sierra Leone, child soldiers committed acts of rape, mutilation and mass killings of civilians" (Debatewise 2017, Pg 1). What this evidence suggest, is that in Sierra Leone, (Ishmael Beah's home country in West Africa), it is true that these child soldiers have done such horrible things, just like Ishmael said. In the YouTube video of Ishmael Beah's interview, Ishmael says, "Basically, the life of a child older is basically, you go out shoot people and you do whatever the commanders want you to do. If not, they will kill you, then you are feed drugs. And then there are always ways of killing people in front of you to desensitize you, you are given more drugs after that, then you watch rumble films, just a way to keep you in this madness, you know." Ishmael confirms that the commanders killed people in front of him, and forced him to watch videos of people being killed. The fact that the website and a primary source (Ishmael Beah), have almost the same understanding is astonishing. This helps support the claim that they are exposed to vulgar behavior without consent, because it has been proven by very reliable sources that child soldiers are forced to witness people being assaulted in killed right in front of them and on film, to me, that is vulgar and absolutely horrible that they are forced to watch this.
If you have ever been so scared that you just obey to what you are told, then you can understand what these children went through. These children were coerced to the point where they had no choice but to listen or they would die. So, these soldiers had a life threatening dilemma, where either way they are giving up their lives, whether it is physically dying or giving up your life as a regular human being. Not only are they scared into joining but while they are training in the Military, it is probably the most unnerving part. They are threatened with extreme punishments that scare children into being obedient, because they don't want to be hurt. Information from Human Rights Watch says, "Because children are often physically vulnerable, easily intimidated, and susceptible to psychological manipulation, they typically make obedient soldiers. As part of their training for violence, child recruits are often subject to grueling physical tasks as well as ideological indoctrination. Children accused of the slightest infractions may be subject to extreme physical punishments, including beating, whipping, caning, and being chained or tied up with rope for days at a time" (Human Rights Watch 2008, Pg 1). This supports that they are being manipulated by being scared into joining, because the information from the website confirms that the child soldiers are easily intimidated, and there was beating, whipping, caning, etc. Thus, if children are proven to be easily intimidated and these horrible people are threatening to hurt them if they don't join or even while they are already enlisted, then of course they are going to have no choice but to obey.
Some people may believe that because the child Soldiers are committing such horrible atrocities, such as rape, assault, and murder, they should be held accountable for their actions. They may even believe that even though they are young, it doesn't mean they are manipulated, but that is false. An article from Human Rights Watch says, "Many are pressed into combat, where they may be forced to the front lines or sent into minefields ahead of older troops. Children have also been used for suicide missions" (Human Rights Watch 2008, Pg 1). This information says that children were forced into suicide missions, which is a mission that will usually sacrifice your life. In other words, their commanders force them to sacrifice their life, just so that they don't loose the important people, the adults. So if people believe that child soldiers should be held accountable for their actions, they are wrong, because they don't get to choose what they do, they are just told by their commanders. Either way, the atrocities will happen one way or another.
The evidence that supports that child soldiers shouldn't be prosecuted, because they are being manipulated by drugs, modeled behavior, and being scared into joining is significantly greater than the evidence for them being perpetrators. The known fact the children copy modelled behavior cannot be ignored when choosing what position you take. If a child is manipulated by drugs they will obey, if a child is witnessing atrocities and or threatened, they will obey, because they believe that they have no other choice. It is true that child soldiers have done some horrific things, but the people who believe they are perpetrators need to understand that they had no choice, because either way someone was going to die.