(The Humanitarian Social Network)
Just a few hours ago I published this post on AidSpeak (the AidSource external blog): Humanitarian Space (the final frontier). I have suggested that we, humanitarians, need to be better at engaging with military actors in the humanitarian space. And while, of course, I have my own ideas of what that might mean, specifically, I'd also very much like to hear from the members of this group on this:
Recognizing the present realities - good, bad, neutral - how do we engage as humanitarians? It seems to me that simply ignoring The Military is not an option, nor is the traditional practice of holding them rigidly at arms' length. So what do we do? Where should humanitarians and NGOs draw the lines? Speak from your own experiences - we all know the basic principles of "distinction" and "impartiality."But how do we actually work in the field in those situation where we have no choice but to "cooperate" with military actors to some extent? Anyone can read the books. But few in the conversation right now have real experience. So speak from yours: what's missing from the current humanitarian CIVMIL paradigm? How do we operate in a manner this both upholds humanitarian principles, but is also pragmatic? Where do we begin moving forward from here?
Share you thoughts...
Good topic, J. and one that I think deserves a lot more debate than it is currently getting -- particularly as the U.S. transitions out of two wars and has a battle-tested corps of good men and women whose leaders, in some instances, are looking to push hard into the new "frontier" that is the humanitarian assistance/disaster response (HA/DR in milspeak) space. I'm not talking about logistics support. I'm talking about parlaying COIN/"hearts-and-minds" work in theater, coupling that with full understanding that knowing the "local context" and identifying and controlling the information environment is as imperative to the war-fighter as it is to the aid-worker.
So what's missing from the current humanitarian CIVMIL paradigm? A good dialogue...getting the honest issues out there...getting people to own that we all DO actually generalize stereotypes about the military (while also chirping about our open-mindedness out the other side of our mouth).
What is the blaring, flashing neon light to me is the fact that the industry that has the means, the pull, and the organizational power to change into what they want to be is the U.S. military. They want a footprint somewhere in the world, we have seen, then they go out and stomp one. I'm not making a value judgment -- I'm speaking from looking at history. Where are those outside of civilian government that want to shape this dialogue getting their ideas, concerns, suggestions, whatever...out there?
Pia, I understand from an outside perspective it does seem the U.S. military is easy to change itself into what it wants to be. In reality, changing rules and policies within the Department of Defense is like a root canal because not only are you dealing with career military officers who have their own visions of how the military will operate but also a very powerful U.S. Congress who have the power to slash funding for any DoD program they do not agree with. They (U.S. Congress) also have the tendency to hold hearing upon hearing over programs that potentially impact their standing back home.
There has been some work in the area of understanding the humanitarian actors that operate within the same area as members of the military through the engagement with organizations like the Army War College and the National Defense University. Work conducted by the Stimson Center and USIP has also been influential in assisting the U.S. DoD with better understanding of the humanitarian sector. A good example of this is the Carr Center's work on mass atrocities and how now their work is being used to shape DoD policy on prevention of mass atrocities including a guidebook for military commanders.
J. - I posted some comments on the external blog rather than here.....