humanitarian vs. military aid
Since the end of World War II and the success of the Marshall Plan in bringing European countries back from the rubble, the United States has lead humanitarian efforts worldwide. When violence and suffering has broken out in various countries, the U.S. has played a central role in addressing the situation.

However, in many instances, the line that divides humanitarian and military responses to crises around the world has been blurred. As the global relief system emerged from a response to post-war years, it is understandable that the military plays an important role in delivering aid to countries facing political struggles or natural disasters.

In 1955, the humanitarian aid system began to expand in response to liberation struggles in new nations. Large groups of people facing displacement required immediate responses from powerful nations to survive. Militaries had the necessary training, discipline and self-supporting manpower to respond to these various disasters.

However, military responses to humanitarian crises can sometimes have unintended results. Transferring modes and doctrines used in post-war Europe to conflict and natural disasters in the third world has proven to be inappropriate or even counterproductive.

“Provision of tents to victims of an earthquake or hurricane often delayed reconstruction and failed to address critical land issues. Construction of refugee camps for famine victims drew people away from their land, making agricultural recovery nearly impossible and creating an even larger relief requirement. Massive inoculations were not only inappropriate but, when applied incompletely, they often broke down the people’s natural immunities, actually increasing their risk to disease.”

Beside these secondary effects, the use of military in humanitarian aid operation leads to a more complex issue: the lack of sufficient funding for humanitarian assistance. Militaries are usually the most accessible for providing emergency relief. However, this does not mean they are the most cost effective. In some instances, these expenses are compensated for by decreasing funding for the actual civilian humanitarian operations.

A common belief is that the cost of military intervention in humanitarian aid is borne by the military itself. But usually, the military is reimbursed by the country’s department or ministry in charge of foreign aid operations. This means that funding is taken away from civilian lead humanitarian aid. It also turn out that the cost of humanitarian operations increases when the military is involved in relief efforts.

Today, more than ever, the military remains involved in humanitarian aid. While this kind of intervention is vital in some instances, it carries hidden costs and produces unintended, harmful consequences in most cases.

Sahar Abi Hassan

Sources: PBS, USA Today
Photo: USA Today

According to a Politico article, a former Wisconsin senator ended a war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Russ Feingold, who lost his seat to Republican Ron Johnson in 2010, was appointed by John Kerry to help resolve a conflict involving the Congolese government and militia M23.

“Feingold’s assignment came just as a new group of rebels, trained and equipped by Rwanda, was gaining strength in the west and even threatening to take Kinshasa, the Congolese capital,” Politico reported.

The most important lesson behind the peace negotiations, Kerry told Feingold, is “that diplomacy works, and persistence pays off.”

Kerry became familiar with Feingold’s work ethic when they sat together for years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“Russ and I served together in the Senate for some 18 years,” Kerry said during a United States Department of State press announcement in June 2013. “I have a lot of respect for a lot of qualities of Russ–his intellect, his courage, his passion–but with respect to this mission, chief among those qualities that are important right now is his expertise on Africa.”

The situation in the DRC has caused much concern for the international community lately. The United Nations peacekeeping mission in the country has an annual cost of $1.5 billion and employs 20,000 troops. Moreover, a study by the American Journal of Public Health revealed that around 48 women are raped every hour throughout the country.

Human Rights Watch also released a report condemning the war crimes committed by Rwandan officials and General Bosco Ntaganda, the leader of M23.

“Field research conducted by (HRW) in the region in May 2012 revealed that Rwandan army officials have provided weapons, ammunition, and an estimated 200 to 300 recruits to support Ntaganda’s mutiny in Rutshuru territory, eastern Congo,” HRW said.

Although Feingold was able to defeat M23 with diplomacy, Politico argues that his next big challenge is to make governance in the DRC more effective.

“Only once it gained control over, and legitimacy in, eastern Congo could there be permanent peace,” said Politico. “Until then, it would remain a place where armed militias could gang-rape women and girls in farm fields, abduct boys and turn them into child soldiers, and burn entire villages to the ground.”

Due to its weak infrastructure and widespread poverty, the DRC still has a long way to go before getting rid of these problems. However, Feingold’s accomplishment in the region may potentially guide the country towards the right direction.

– Juan Campos

Sources: Human Rights Watch, Politico, U.S. Department of State
Photo: Pulitzer Center

Rand Paul Misjudges Importance of Foreign AidSenator Rand Paul from Kentucky has made his opinion on American foreign aid quite clear. While there are people here in the United States who still suffer from lack of health insurance and inadequate education, Senator Rand Paul believes that American money should be spent on internal improvements.

However, with a consistent focus on strong national security by the last five or so presidencies, it is not that foreign aid should be cut or reduced. Rather, it should be moved around to be made better use of.

There is military aid, which aims to achieve a specific national security goal directly. This may include ammunition, military bases, or force training. The second category of foreign aid could be best labeled as ‘structural’ aid. Structural aid is given to countries as humanitarian aid, money to rebuild infrastructure, improve health care and education, among other areas. While some may wish to argue otherwise, structural aid allows countries to stabilize themselves internally to prevent outbreaks such as civil wars or terrorist-like groups from arising from the grievances the populace may have.

While military aid tries to end the problem after it comes out of hand, structural aid should be looked at as a way to prevent the problem before it even starts. However, it can be hard to differentiate between the most pressing needs of a foreign country and how that fits into America’s economic ability. Sometimes, nations are not in any political state to receive structural aid. For example, funding education and health care services in Syria is understandably difficult at the moment when rebels and government forces are constantly killing citizens and endangering their everyday lives.

Although it will be hard to convince our nation’s government of the usefulness of structural aid because its actual ‘return’ takes years to surface, pumping money into military aid and then criticizing the use of structural aid ignores the link between both categories and minimizing threats to our national security.

The U.S. presence in countries should not have to start only when wars break out. We should utilize our outstanding resources and analysts to pinpoint countries that are currently able to make the most use out of American aid and begin smoothing out the small bumps on the road before they turn into dangerous potholes.

– Deena Dulgerian