Humanitarian Aid or Military Intervention in Iraq

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BAGHDAD, Iraq — Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary-General, cautioned against airstrikes in Iraq, saying they would be ineffectual and could possibly backfire. He advises Iraq’s quarreling factions to come together against the terrorists who have captured a vast swath of territory.

The Iraqi government has asked for the United States to help them curtail the insurgency with airstrikes, but President Barack Obama will not do this as of now. However, Obama stated that he is sending a small number of military advisers to Iraq.

Aren’t there other ways to help, rather than intervening militarily, such as humanitarian aid to Iraq?

1. There are cheaper, more straightforward ways to help

Military operations, even minor ones, are very expensive. Unfortunately, many American politicians consider military expenditures as foreign aid. In 2009, the United States had the largest defense spending in the world, at about 711 billion dollars. Diplomacy and peacemaking in Iraq would not only be more effective and direct, but would also be cheaper. Many military officers even agree with this. Eighty-four percent of military officers agree that the efforts to strengthen tools like development and diplomacy should be equal to efforts to strengthen the military.

“Development is a lot cheaper than sending soldiers,” said Robert Gates, Former Secretary of Defense.

2. More often than not, military intervention can worsen a situation and increase violence.

Often, the United States’ first option overseas is to intervene militarily. The invasion of Iraq in the early 2000s weakened Iraq’s infrastructure and stimulated sectarian violence. What some politicians do not understand is that there are more options, like humanitarian aid to Iraq. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen stated that he would give some of his budget to the State Department, “in a heartbeat.”

“U.S. foreign policy is still too dominated by the military, too dependent on the generals and admirals who lead our major overseas commands, and not enough on the State Department,” Admiral Mullen said.

3. The military will always be a crucial part of security, but must be balanced with humanitarian aid

Former Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, has frequently asserted that the United States cannot overcome current national security challenges with military force by itself. The national security strategy of the United States says, “Our Armed Forces will always be the cornerstone of our security, but they must be complemented. Our security also depends on diplomats who can act in every corner of the world, from grand capitals to dangerous outposts; development experts who can strengthen governance and support human dignity.”

4. Humanitarian aid to Iraq can improve U.S. national security

Improving conditions for those living in poverty around the world is a key part of the United States National Security Strategy. The Pentagon’s “3Ds” for ensuring the security of the United States are: Defense, Development and Diplomacy. The National Security Strategy of the U.S. focuses on helping states evade harboring terrorists by assisting them in building a capable government and therefore strengthening their security.

President Barack Obama stated, “It’s a moral imperative, it’s an economic imperative, and it is a security imperative. For we’ve seen how spikes in food prices can plunge millions into poverty, which, in turn, can spark riots that cost lives, and can lead to instability. And this danger will only grow if a surging global population isn’t matched by surging food production. So reducing malnutrition and hunger around the world advances international peace and security — and that includes the national security of the United States.”

5. The United States owes Iraq

“Proactively investing in stronger societies and human welfare is far more effective and efficient than responding after state collapse.”

The U.S. National Security Strategy claims that the United States should develop a country to begin with, rather than rebuilding it after collapse. Unfortunately, in the case of Iraq, damage has already been done. The chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, stated that the ongoing conflict in Iraq calls for humanitarian assistance from the United States on top of diplomatic efforts, in a letter to Susan Rice, National Security Advisor.

“Our nation bears a special responsibility toward the people of Iraq. The US-led invasion and occupation unleashed both sectarian conflicts and extremism in Iraq, two tragic unintended consequences that have profound and continuing repercussions for the people of Iraq,” said Pates.

If the United States wants to help, they should provide diplomatic efforts and humanitarian aid to Iraq. Development and diplomacy efforts must strengthen the state, lift the Iraqi people out of poverty, encourage economic growth and prevent conflict, which will in turn harbor safer climates so instability and violence does not occur in the future.

– Colleen Moore

Sources: 10, USA Today, CNN, ICN, The Borgen Project 1, The Borgen Project 2
Photo: Wikimedia

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Ryan Miller

BORGEN Magazine is an initiative of The Borgen Project.

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