December 30 2013
By Nancy Hanover
Humanitarianism Contested, Where Angels Fear to Tread, by Michael Barnett and Thomas G. Weiss
Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated the Philippines in November, once again highlighted the nature of internationally-organized humanitarian aid: the paucity of real help and the exploitation of such crises by the Great Powers to further their own geo-strategic and military agendas.
The pattern, from the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, has become brutally apparent. Food and medical support is woefully inadequate, administered by a patchwork of uncoordinated agencies, each with its own agenda. No lasting improvements are made to forestall the next disaster.
The most striking continuity to the pattern is, however, the fact that humanitarian responses by International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs) are increasingly dominated by the military. In the wake of the typhoon in the Philippines, the arrival of the USS George Washington aircraft carrier, with its seven warships, reflects the preoccupation of the American government with its “pivot” to Asia and associated military preparations against China.
The role of INGOs as a Trojan Horse for world imperialism was also demonstrated in the propaganda lead-up to the planned shock-and-awe style assault against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad last August-September. Among the most strident voices was that of Bernard Kouchner, the co-founder of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders—MSF) and former foreign minister in the right-wing government of President Nicolas Sarkozy. He impatiently asked in late July, “The famous American drones, where are they?” imploring the imperialist powers to take military action in the name of humanitarianism. →