Tools of War, Tools of State

When Children Become Soldiers

By Robert Tynes

Subjects: Violence, Sociology Of War, Politics, International Relations, Anthropology
Series: SUNY series, James N. Rosenau series in Global Politics
Hardcover : 9781438471990, 278 pages, September 2018
Paperback : 9781438471983, 278 pages, July 2019

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Table of contents

List of Diagrams and Tables

1. Why Use Children in War

2. A Shifting Norm

3. The Spread of a Tactic

4. A Global View of Tactical Need

5. Ground-Level Dynamics and the Case of Sierra Leone

6. Tools of State-Building

7. Strategies of Prevention, Compellence, and Protection


Examines why many governments, rebels, and terrorist organizations are using children as soldiers.


Despite the supposed taboo against the practice, many governments, rebels, and terrorist groups use children in war to spy and kill. In Tools of War, Tools of State, Robert Tynes examines this complex problem, demonstrating that the modern use of children in war is a tactical innovation. He discusses how boys and girls on the battlefield bolster troop size, create moral dilemmas, and deepen the level of fear. He also reveals how the practice has become an essential component for groups such as ISIS and al-Shabaab, in their state-making projects. Using statistical methods to analyze conflicts from 1987 to 2007, Tynes shows how widespread child soldier use is and confirms the theory that it is tactically advantageous. Through historical analysis, he explains how child soldiering developed out of Mao's protracted war theory and the militarization of youth during the twentieth century. A case study of the civil war in Sierra Leone, which details the brutality involved when children are forced to fight, is included.

Robert Tynes is Associate Director of Research and Site Director for the Bard Prison Initiative at Bard College.


"…Tools of War, Tools of State provides a comprehensive analysis of the ways in which children become participants in conflict. For those unfamiliar with the topic, this book is an excellent overview of the complexities surrounding the determinants of child soldier use. For scholars and researchers, it inspires and demands future research continue to examine and evaluate the tools available to combat child soldiering globally. " — African Studies Quarterly

"The author has spent much time researching the use of child soldiers in various conflicts and the data used will be of special interest to those who[se] work lies in a wider geo‐political awareness than that referring just to Africa … His extensive bibliography will be invaluable to others who become interested in just how, why, where, etc. the innocence of the young was transformed into a calculated and hideous killer. " — Journal of Sierra Leone Studies

"Robert Tynes has written the most comprehensive and thorough explanation to date of how and why children become involved in war. Examining the problem from both qualitative and quantitative perspectives, he does a superb job of showing the ways in which children are exploited by states and nonstate actors to carry out the most heinous forms of political violence. " — Mia Bloom, author of Dying to Kill: The Allure of Suicide Terror and Bombshell: Women and Terrorism

"Tools of War, Tools of State explores the often overlooked but extremely important issue of the use of child soldiers, shedding light on why insurgents are motivated to bring children into their ranks, give them guns, and put them on the battlefield. " — Victor Asal, author of Legal Path Dependence and the Long Arm of the Religious State: Sodomy Provisions and Gay Rights across Nations and over Time

"Robert Tynes makes an important contribution to one of the most critical humanitarian issues of our time: the use of child soldiers in combat. He does a masterful job examining why both governments and rebel groups choose to use child soldiers and exploring his innovative argument using a range of methods from ethnographic interviews and case studies to network and regression analyses. The book will be of interest to academics, students, and policy professionals. " — David L. Rousseau, author of Democracy and War: Institutions, Norms, and the Evolution of International Conflict