Over the last few weeks, I have been monitoring and writing about the US military’s role in flood relief efforts in Pakistan. As a service to Conflict Health readers, here is a roundup of the best articles on the topic published in the last week.
As the U.S. carries out rescue missions and pours millions of dollars of relief into flood-ravaged Pakistan, Washington hopes the aid will chip away at the deep hatred and mistrust that many Pakistanis have for America. Though the two nations’ governments remain allies in the fight against terrorism, Pakistanis have long viewed the United States as an exploitative power interested more in controlling their country than nurturing its prosperity.
That stated, the ability to conduct humanitarian assistance has a long and honorable history in the US military and has its place. Taking six-weeks to help people suffering from water-born disease and lack of medical care is a long time to “help” save lives. Most who are in danger of dying now will be dead by the time the ARG/MEU gets there. On the extreme margins, we can help a few – but is that “our” job to save every soul in danger across the world? A Pakistani whose village is much better off than the homeless refugees of Darfur who are walking among the uncounted dead. Where, and at what cost-point, do you say, “enough.” When do the actions of a Republic start to look like the duties of an Empire?
U.S. Army choppers carrying emergency food and water buzzed over the swollen river and washed-out bridges, landing in the valley once controlled by the Taliban. They returned laden with grateful Pakistani flood survivors — newly won friends in a country where many regard America as the No. 1 enemy.
Catastrophic floods in Pakistan have killed more than 1,500 people, displaced at least 12 million, and left 20% of the country under water. Though the World Bank and the United Nations have pledged more than $1.4 billion in combined relief funds, the international community has generally been reluctant to get involved with the troubled Pakistani government. All too eager to aid flood victims, however, are Pakistani terrorist groups that use social services to expand their influence.
Christopher R. Albon is a political science Ph.D. specializing in armed conflict, public health, human security, and health diplomacy.