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Military Humanitarianism - an Oxymoron?

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"`Humanitarian war' is an oxymoron which may yet become reality. The recent practice of states, and of the United Nations, has involved major uses of armed force in the name of humanitarianism: especially in northern Iraq, in Somalia and in Former Yugoslavia. These humanitarian activities in situations of conflict raise many awkward questions." - Adam Roberts, Professor of International Relations, Oxford University, 1993)

Tsunami Relief

Hurricane Katrina Relief

Assistance in Indonesian Forest Fire

Rebuilding Iraq

East Timor Peace Support

What is Peaces Support and What Is Humanitarian?

There have been constant debates amongst scholars on what constitute Military Humanitarianism and when and how such efforts should be carried out and by whom. For this paper I would be looking at some of such arguments and explore the direction the military should take.

The purpose of humanitarian assistance can be defined briefly as the alleviation of human need and suffering and (particularly in the case of the International Committee of the Red Cross) protection of civilians in times of crisis and armed conflict. It is guided by humanitarian principles drawn from international humanitarian law, principally 'impartiality' - that assistance should be provided on the basis of need alone and not political, social, religious or ethnic association. Humanitarian assistance should also be 'neutral' by not taking sides in hostilities or engaging in political, racial, religious or ideological controversies. It should furthermore be 'independent' from political objectives and actors.

In short such efforts are guided by the humanitarian principles of neutrality, independence and impartiality.

Many entities can undertake such a role. First, trans-national organisations - UN peace keeping operations in various parts of the world like Somalia, the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda had demonstrated concerted efforts by the international community to assist countries torn by internal strife. Second, individual sovereign states - the United States is the prime example, having intervened in various countries stretching from Haiti to Iraq. And third, private aid agencies - agencies that operate free from direct government control. Such agencies may include profit and non-profit agencies.

From the various interventions around the world, the use of military, whether under UN auspices or individual states were preferred, whether it was for peace keeping, toppling of corrupt governments or for disaster relief. For



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