The Militarized Intervention Complex

15 May

Is it any wonder pundits are sidetracked by this notion of forcing aid on states (via ):

The plane swoops in low and its cargo bay slowly opens to reveal a landscape devastated by flood, war or drought. Men in jumpsuits pull levers sending massive pallets of emergency food supplies trundling out and down to the desperate masses below. The plane pulls up and away and the job is done. Aid has been delivered to the needy.

This is the telegenic aid fantasy that has hooked some politicians and appealed to some columnists as a viable option in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis. Dropping pallets of aid from the sky seems a straightforward, elegant and technological solution to the difficult political problem of the Burmese government’s refusal to allow enough humanitarian workers into the country to deal with the disaster.

Except air drops are not the aid equivalent of smart bombs. Running a humanitarian effort from the skies, like running a purely airborne war, is fraught with problems.

For a start it requires excellent intelligence. Yet no one knows exactly where the worst affected areas are, or how many people are suffering in each place. We don’t know if people are on the move, or what diseases are starting to appear, or exactly what state their homes and infrastructure are in.

Has the nonprofit sector conveniently assumed the worst, and avoided the deeper question of how to alleviate the need for intervention? But, there’s no national legislature to woo with inflated budgets and dire prophecies. As a donor, please don’t tell me I have to give indefinitely. Death and taxes, maybe, but NGOs don’t last forever!

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