20 July 2009

Should I Bring the Gun or the Flowers?

Wired Danger Room is on an embed in the Panjshir Valley in Afghanistan and they note the poo-pooing by NGO types of the PRT in carrying out civil-military operations:

Not everyone is fan of the military’s embrace of the humanitarian mission. Since their inception in late 2002 as “Joint Regional Teams,” many in the aid and development community have worried that the PRTs were encroaching on a traditional humanitarian space, blurring the line between civilian aid work and military operations. In a recent opinion piece, Anna Husarska of the International Rescue Committee quotes an unnamed colleague who tut-tutted that the PRTs are “Humvees in a china shop.” For the purists, relief and development work are a task best done by independent aid agencies, not the military.
This isn't the first time that humanitarians have bad-mouthed this entire component of counter-insurgency. As a guy who used to be in the military but is now a tie-dye wearin' NGO geek, I feel the need to comment. Yes, showing up with an assortment of weapons might not be the key to convincing folks you are there to help, but it is incredibly naive to not understand that security and the rule of law must be established before any real social/economic development takes place in troubled areas. That's why the 2007 strategy in Iraq was successful, because it primarily focused on improving security, instead having contractors half-assedly building schools that were going to get blown up anyways.

There is/will be a need for humanitarian workers in Afghanistan, but until law and order can be established, it will have to have a military component. Don't let idealism result in you getting killed by reality.


David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 07/21/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

Lisa said...

"security and the rule of law must be established", yes. The country must have a viable police.

But then you mention military in Afghanistan. Are you implying a U.S. military presence? It seems rather futile, when the NYT reports today that 50% of their citizens approve of Taliban killing Americans. I sure don't wanna be that humanitarian aid worker.