Wednesday, April 04, 2007

TNR- Does the military endanger humanitarian aid workers?

David Bosco has an article in The New Republic Online, entitled, 'Does the military endanger humanitarian aid workers?'. Our friends at PCR Project posted the same piece last week.

The introduction sums up the topography of issues around which the debate is centered:

'The long list of indictments against recent American foreign policy includes one issued by some of the world's noblest people: international aid workers. By cynically and recklessly blending military and humanitarian missions, the charge goes, the United States has blurred the line that once kept aid workers safe and has made them attractive targets for extremists seeking to attack American interests. Innovations like Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Iraq and Afghanistan, which mix military personnel with civilian aid experts have made some humanitarian workers queasy, and the sight of American troops driving around Afghanistan in white SUVs--long favored by aid groups--only made things worse.'

From this point onwards, the argument changes. Basing itself on the Center for International Cooperation's, 'Providing Aid in Insecure Environments:
Trends in Policy and Operations
', Bosco concludes that the evidence doesn't fit the charge. Specifically, an increase in attacks on aid workers is a result of an increased number of workers in the field, and not on the blurring of lines between military and humanitarain actors, or the mixing of humanitarian with politico-military agendas.

While Bosco takes a balanced approach in his charting of the issues, in the balance his tone suggests that the future of impartial humanitariran assistance is somewhat cloudy. The debate continues...