Monday, April 5, 2010

War-Making and Peace-Building

The counter-insurgency strategy that now guides US policy in Afghanistan seeks to win hearts-and-minds through a comprehensive plan partly based on the image of the soldier-aid worker. Attaching a larger humanitarian purpose to war by melding strategic and development tasks so that war-fighters become peacemakers and vice-versa. It is one reason war funding is so quickly approved by congress.

Humanitarian and reconstruction activities must be Afghan-centered and civilian-lead. It is essential for humanitarian organizations to work in a spirit of neutrality and reach across lines that divide com­munities. When humanitarian work is co-opted into a military strategy it is no longer seen as impartial. The Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT’s) merge civilian with military personnel to conduct humani­tarian, and reconstruction work. This merger has caused humanitarian workers to be seen as agents of the military and puts even those who are not col­laborating with the military at risk of being seen as legitimate targets.

John Heathershaw tackles these issues from a British perspective in a provocative article, finding

…there is an alternative between peace-building-as-war-making and inaction in the face of human suffering in wartime. Independent aid agencies and missionaries have continued to work bravely without military assistance in many of the worst conflicts for decades. They were even in Afghanistan under Taliban and will remain there long after the coalition troops have left. They are independent, impartial and they do not use force. When they have been around for long enough, they garner far more local respect than any civilian-military provincial reconstruction team. They are unable to stop genocide but they are able to lessen the suffering generated by our ‘ordered’ world whilst questioning the bases of this order.

Addition Resources: End Reliance on Military Solutions
Action: Our letter to the editor

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Afghanistan 101 is a blog of the American Friends Service Committee
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