Humanitarian Aid Is Not a Military Business

By Lischer, Sarah Kenyon | The Christian Science Monitor, April 15, 2003 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Humanitarian Aid Is Not a Military Business


Lischer, Sarah Kenyon, The Christian Science Monitor


The installation of a retired general to head postwar operations in Iraq demonstrates the Pentagon's ability to wrest control of humanitarian reconstruction from the United Nations and the Department of State.But this power ought to rest with a civilian organization - such as the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - that practically and ethically will better serve the reconstruction effort.The Pentagon should sacrifice the short-term benefit of control for the long-term prize of legitimacy.Under a military-controlled relief effort, humanitarian assistance can easily become a tool of war. Hostile forces might see aid workers as easy targets and allies of the occupying force. Moreover, the neediest Iraqis may never receive assistance if their needs don't match the Pentagon's political goals. The reconstruction effort is likely to lack international legitimacy and financial support.In Iraq, the US use of humanitarian aid as a political asset threatens the efficiency and equity of aid operations. The Pentagon, overruling the Department of State, has asserted the right to organize postwar reconstruction in Iraq. It created an Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance that will have the military imprimatur on every aspect of rebuilding - from political institutions to the food aid Iraqis receive.Aid workers from international charities can follow along the Pentagon script or they can operate at their own considerable risk. The Pentagon has even made plans for these aid workers to wear US military-issued identification badges - something the workers see as an affront to their values as well as an unnecessary risk in a still volatile region.The Pentagon plan poses monumental ethical and practical challenges to aid groups. The two bedrock principles of humanitarian assistance are neutrality and impartiality.Neutrality means that organizations do not take sides in a conflict. Impartiality means that need is the only condition for determining who receives aid - not political affiliation, ethnicity, or any other criterion.Aid organizations obviously lose their neutrality if they operate under the direction of the US military. Humanitarian aid also loses its impartiality if politics, rather than need, determines who receives aid. On the ground, that might translate to the military preventing aid workers from assisting non-liberated zones, for example.Adherence to impartiality and neutrality, even in an imperfect way, is a practical asset to aid workers, in addition to the ethical value.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Humanitarian Aid Is Not a Military Business
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?