21 November 2008

Humanitarian Aid at Gunpoint? Hot or Not

Marines Deliver Bottled Water in Bangladesh in 2007 (From The Donovan)

A Spanish-based group called the Development Assistance Research Associates (DARA) has chastised the United States for using humanitarian aid for political/diplomatic means. It has also criticized humanitarian aid from the United States for being too focused on utilizing the military. From the Washington Post:
It ranked near the bottom in adherence to principles and guidelines established in 2005 by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development -- which includes the United States and other industrialized powers -- to ensure that political considerations do not exclude worthy recipients of aid.

DARA's findings reflect what it called the United States' use of humanitarian assistance to achieve military or political goals in eight crisis zones the group studied, including Afghanistan, Colombia and the Palestinian territories. The assessment challenges the United States' view of itself "as the paragon of global compassion," Larry Minear, a retired professor at Tufts University, wrote in the report.
This is not the first time that non-profits have voiced concern over humanitarian missions meshing with military objectives. But, the fact of the matter is that in countries like Somalia, Afghanistan, and Iraq, Western aid workers with little to no means of security have been targeted by thugs repeatedly and ruthlessly. The humanitarian mission has to go hand-in-hand with the Armed Forces in some crisis areas for the sake of self-preservation of those involved. Also, the military has the expensive resources and expensive training to respond quickly to disasters like the Tsunami in 2004. Democracy Arsenal also criticizes DARA's assessment because of the counter-insurgency aspect of civil/military relations.

I don't understand what DARA is advocating that the United States do, just use the military to drop bombs on everybody thereby alleviating the need for aid, or just shell out more money to the grossly incompetent United Nations? DARA should have spent more time snooping around their own backyard of Spain. That $23M waste of money on a palatial piece of mural art at the U.N. was partially funded by Spanish tax dollars meant for overseas development aid. Of course, I'm sure the starving children in the third-world were excited about it.