Essay - Can Militaries Ever Be Humanitarians

BuggerAll

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
#1
I've just started an MSc in International Humanitarian Affairs and have an essay to write by the New year for the first module. The first module is Examining Humanitarianism and my essay title is:

Can Militaries Ever Be Humanitarians
(and can other stakeholders ever accept them as humanitarians)?

This allows me to examine humanitarianism from a viewpoint I'm comfortable with and to try and see it as others do.

I'm not looking for anyone to do my research for me but I would be interested in any views or thoughts that can help me form my background thinking on the subject. I also think its an interesting subject (otherwise I wouldn't be doing it) and I thought others may wish to discuss it too.
 
#2
I've just started an MSc in International Humanitarian Affairs and have an essay to write by the New year for the first module. The first module is Examining Humanitarianism and my essay title is:

Can Militaries Ever Be Humanitarians
(and can other stakeholders ever accept them as humanitarians)?

This allows me to examine humanitarianism from a viewpoint I'm comfortable with and to try and see it as others do.

I'm not looking for anyone to do my research for me but I would be interested in any views or thoughts that can help me form my background thinking on the subject. I also think its an interesting subject (otherwise I wouldn't be doing it) and I thought others may wish to discuss it too.
Do you have a definition of humanitarian that you can start us off with? Apart from anything else that is Chapter 1 :)
 
#4
Of course they can. One only needs to look at any disaster relief anywhere in the world to see forces personnel (either from the country in question, or from a friendly foreign power) taking a leading role.
 
#5
My first thoughts would be that the military is deployed by the leader of the state to which it belongs. It serves to meet the objectives which it has been specified to meet; the military does not self task although is permitted to act dynamically once deployed.

Humanitarian situations can be manmade (or mxnmade, if you prefer) or stem from natural phenomena. A military may resolve a manmade humanitarian situation by obstructing one party from carrying out inhumane actions. Military aid to a civilian power (MACP) in the time of natural disaster has been seen frequently and in many countries. However the military aid is in the forum of manpower and vehicles rather than weapons and violence.

Examples to use, WW2, Bosnia, Iraq (between 1993 and 2003), floods and fire strikes.
 

BuggerAll

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
#6
Do you have a definition of humanitarian that you can start us off with? Apart from anything else that is Chapter 1 :)
Good question I'm afraid I'm going to do a cut and paste answer from Global Humanitarian Assistance http://www.globalhumanitarianassistance.org/data-guides/defining-humanitarian-aid/ :

Defining humanitarian assistance
Humanitarian assistance is generally accepted to mean the aid and action designed to save lives, alleviate suffering and maintain and protect human dignity during and in the aftermath of man-made crises and natural disasters, as well as to prevent and strengthen preparedness for the occurrence of such situations (Source: Good Humanitarian Donorship). What marks it out from other forms of aid and foreign assistance is that it should be guided by the principles of:

  • humanity – saving human lives and alleviating suffering wherever it is found
  • impartiality – acting solely on the basis of need, without discrimination between or within affected populations
  • neutrality – acting without favouring any side in an armed conflict or other dispute where such action is carried out
  • independence – the autonomy of humanitarian objectives from the political, economic, military or other objectives that any actor may hold with regard to areas where humanitarian action is being implemented.
However, what is actually reported as having been spent on humanitarian assistance can vary widely by data source. There is no universal obligation to report humanitarian assistance expenditure and no single repository of information. Inclusions as to what counts as humanitarian assistance expenditure will vary by government, NGO, multilateral organisation, foundation, company and database.

Most of our analyses and attempts to quantify humanitarian expenditure are based around the concepts of:

  • international humanitarian response
  • domestic government humanitarian expenditure.
What’s included – and who – depends on donor reporting and data availability.
 
#7
I suspect that the humanitarian use of the military is an aspect of "Just War" doctrine.

If you are going to use military trained personnel and equipment as a glorified fire brigade, there isn't a problem with that. There may be capability and capacity gaps that armed forces can fill.

If, on the other hand, you mean to use armed force to achieve or deliver humanitarian ends IN OPPOSITION to other players, with the threat of violence implicit in the delivery, then you are looking at humanitarianism as a MOTIVE for war or "casus belli".

That takes you into very complex ethics indeed.-because if there is a humanitarian crisis caused by, or being exploited by, a political faction or nation, then if it is decided to impose humanitarian aid by force, you have effectively declared war on behalf of the victims.
By definition, then, the humanitarians have become combatants on the side of the victim.
 
#8
I'd suggest that a military can never be 'humanitarian'. Specifically around the idea of 'independent'/'aid without favour'.

And @BuggerAll has just beaten me to the cut'n'paste punch
 

BuggerAll

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
#9
Thanks for your reply.

...(or mxnmade, if you prefer)...
Is 'mxnmade' a word?

Examples to use, WW2, Bosnia, Iraq (between 1993 and 2003), floods and fire strikes.
I'd agree with you that they are all humanitarian actions but I suspect many of the stakeholders would not see it that way. In WW2 the Axis would not have accepted 'our' actions as humanitarian nor would many people in Bengal. In Bosnia there are plenty of people who viewed our interference very dimly. Internationals as well as locals. NATO's War Crimes in Yugoslavia - Its bollox but a lot of people believe it.

I was thinking of using Kosovo as an example but I'm being steered to look at a case of a purely humanitarian op rather than a military op where humanitarian relief was provided as an adjunct. The others are still relevant.
 

BuggerAll

LE
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
#10
I suspect that the humanitarian use of the military is an aspect of "Just War" doctrine.

If you are going to use military trained personnel and equipment as a glorified fire brigade, there isn't a problem with that. There may be capability and capacity gaps that armed forces can fill.

If, on the other hand, you mean to use armed force to achieve or deliver humanitarian ends IN OPPOSITION to other players, with the threat of violence implicit in the delivery, then you are looking at humanitarianism as a MOTIVE for war or "casus belli".

That takes you into very complex ethics indeed.-because if there is a humanitarian crisis caused by, or being exploited by, a political faction or nation, then if it is decided to impose humanitarian aid by force, you have effectively declared war on behalf of the victims.
By definition, then, the humanitarians have become combatants on the side of the victim.
Syria...
 
#11
'Can be humanitarian' or 'can be deployed on humanitarian tasks/missions'? I would say the answer would be diametrically opposed depending on which question is asked.

The second is an easy 'yes.' It's almost routine around the globe for the state's formed and disciplined body of men to be deployed on humanitarian tasks internally, as part of bolstering regime legitimacy and providing good governance. It's even fairly commonplace for states to lend out their armies to allies, neighbours and random crisis-hit third parties as part of their security, diplomatic or geopolitical agendas.

The first one is harder and my first instinct is to answer, "No, not if they've any aspiration to be effective in role." Humanitarian policies and objectives can be added to the military mission as required but the core role is still the deployment of controlled violence in pursuit of political outcomes. The Laws of Armed Conflict recognise this in using get-out clauses like 'proportionate' and 'where possible' in relation to military actions which result in civilian suffering rather than banning them outright. It also leaves the judgements on proportionality and possibility to the military concerned, who may very well have other priorities e.g. minimising casualties for domestic political reasons.

Short answer: militaries are like Swiss Army knives. They can be used for a range of tasks which may have humanitarian objectives and outcomes but ultimately they're there to take stones out of horses' hooves.
 
#12
Thanks for your reply.



Is 'mxnmade' a word?



I'd agree with you that they are all humanitarian actions but I suspect many of the stakeholders would not see it that way. In WW2 the Axis would not have accepted 'our' actions as humanitarian nor would many people in Bengal. In Bosnia there are plenty of people who viewed our interference very dimly. Internationals as well as locals. NATO's War Crimes in Yugoslavia - Its bollox but a lot of people believe it.

I was thinking of using Kosovo as an example but I'm being steered to look at a case of a purely humanitarian op rather than a military op where humanitarian relief was provided as an adjunct. The others are still relevant.
I think the intervention in Sierra Leone would be the most purely "humanitarian" British operation in recent years, as the bulk of the population was suffering, and the villains were very villainous indeed.
 

Auld-Yin

ADC
Kit Reviewer
Book Reviewer
Reviews Editor
#14
The UK military has been involved in humanitarian activities on many occasions. Most recently might be classed the Ebola outbreak where we sent in military teams to deal with it. Going back a bit and the Invasion of Cyprus in 1974 found thousands of refugees who mad their way to the SBA for protection and were housed in Happy Valley. Initially they were housed (tents) clothed and fed by the British Forces in Cyprus and looked after in a most humanitarian way.

The RN have many. many instances of supplying humanitarian aid to areas which have been hit by tornado or tsunami.

There are many recorded instances of similar incidents but are probably hidden in the more easily found instances of barbarity that the people received the humanitarian aid have fled as barbarity is much better news!
 
#15
'

Short answer: militaries are like Swiss Army knives. They can be used for a range of tasks which may have humanitarian objectives and outcomes but ultimately they're there to take stones out of horses' hooves.
If you want to cut down a tree you can do it very badly and over a long time with a Swiss Army Knife, or you can use an axe.

Militaries can do many things, but they are often not as good as a specialist agency.

If you want to do humanitarianism, use humanitarians.
If you can't do it that way and you have to use tanks and artillery, you probably haven't got the hang of this humanitarian lark, and should think again.
 
#17
I don't know how it would fit with what you're asking but one trend I did notice, and I include myself, is that after serving going to do Humanitarian work is something many ex-soldiers consider.

I guess it's down to seeing the worst of 'humanity' but also the incredible resilience and strength shown by those in the absolute worst places (both physically & mentally). It can be incredibly humbling and we arguably have the right skill sets and experience of working in shitty environments and could make a difference.
 

chrisg46

LE
Book Reviewer
#18
I think the intervention in Sierra Leone would be the most purely "humanitarian" British operation in recent years, as the bulk of the population was suffering, and the villains were very villainous indeed.
Exactly the example I would use. Military force and associated violence to prevent massacre of the civilian population.
 
#19
Sometimes humanitarian missions incur accidental casualties but they are still a service to humanity as in Loughgall.
 
#20
'Can be humanitarian' or 'can be deployed on humanitarian tasks/missions'? I would say the answer would be diametrically opposed depending on which question is asked.

...

The first one is harder and my first instinct is to answer, "No, not if they've any aspiration to be effective in role." Humanitarian policies and objectives can be added to the military mission as required but the core role is still the deployment of controlled violence in pursuit of political outcomes. The Laws of Armed Conflict recognise this in using get-out clauses like 'proportionate' and 'where possible' in relation to military actions which result in civilian suffering rather than banning them outright. It also leaves the judgements on proportionality and possibility to the military concerned, who may very well have other priorities e.g. minimising casualties for domestic political reasons.

...
You are making the assumption that the only roles for the military are warfighting ones, and that it is the teeth arms who perform the only core functions, and everyone else is there in support of them. If the military are deployed on humanitarian ops, it is the medics, engineers, loggies, etc who are performing the primary role, and the fighty types are there in support, in a force protection role.
 

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