For much of this century, the United States has led the world in responding to natural and manmade disasters. From Herbert Hoover's humanitarian relief mission to Europe in World War I through Operation Restore Hope in Somalia and onward, America has answered the call to do the good and just thing time and again. Thankfully, these efforts have been successful at saving the lives of countless would-be victim.
As we approach the next century, however, it has become clear that relief operations are not what they used to be. Providing food, medicine, and shelter to suffering people used to be a straightforward task; but today such operations in areas of political unrest often become entangled in the conflagration. Food and medicine are often used as weapons by factions on all sides -- some of whom have never heard of, let alone comply with, the Geneva Convention articles and other laws protecting noncombatants.
Further complicating relief operations in conflict situations are the large number of humanitarian organizations, UN and donor aid agencies, peacekeeping military forces, and Red Cross-- related groups. This presents a wonderful challenge: Designing and effectively implementing a coherent strategy that maximizes the resources of each organization.
In U.S. Foreign Policy and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Andrew Natsios examines the effects of new-found military and diplomatic implications in humanitarian relief work, as well as