America’s Military Presence in Foreign Countries
The United States has always been a forceful changemaker in the development of other nations. The military is often used to enforce sanctions imposed on dissenting countries, as well as to enforce ideas of development that institutions such as the World Bank promote. As well, considering that the military is fully under the command of the United States government, the military often becomes a part of political wars. The United States is one of the few countries that does not support United Nations peacekeeping missions if it doesn’t want to. However, this means that they must face up to all of their own actions and the impacts they have in the countries they serve in.
Foreign Military as a Tool for Humanitarian Projects
Major Nebyou Yonas, a former Joint Exercise Planner for Marine Forces Africa, headed a number of military projects throughout Morocco, Mali, Kenya, Uganda and more. Major Yonas told The Borgen Project in an interview, “Africa Command had a role to strengthen our relationships with African nations. We wanted to build a more positive presence that worked for both of us.” Major Yonas, an Ethiopian immigrant himself, described the nature of humanitarianism in the military saying, “our military is very capable. We have organizational integrity and we are mission-oriented, so we do logistics very well. Our humanitarian operations received guidance from the [U.S] Embassy, USAID, NGOs and the local people themselves so that we understood what would be useful.”
Given the level of sophistication of the United States military, there is the possibility of bringing on humanitarianism as one of its many functions. The United State’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency manages Humanitarian Assistance programs, as well as the Department of Defense’s nonlethal weapons programs and their role in providing aid relief. A well-oiled machine like the United State’s defense programs has the power to facilitate more peace and positive relationships.
When asked about the types of projects his military unit carried out, as well as his perceived impacts on the local population, Major Yonas said to The Borgen Project, “We handed out eyeglasses and brought along doctors to remove cataracts and treat other non-fatal illnesses; we brought veterinarians to support local cattle farmers, we handed out medications. But our strongest impacts were the economic influx we provided while we were there, and the training we did with local militaries. We usually didn’t stay long enough to observe our impact in numbers, but if someone comes to us blind and they leave us being able to see, I imagine that would have a domino effect. People traveled miles to visit us.”
A Look Ahead
The purpose of the military has always been and will continue to be, to protect home nations from threats of the outside world. This may mean in sheer physical capacity to harm an opponent or to prevent the spread of ideas perceived to be harmful to the home nation. However, given how strong of a presence some countries such as the United States have in political and economic decisions globally, they also have the power to use this structural capacity for good.
– Hannah Yonas