Small Wars Journal on Military Response to Haiti

At Small Wars Journal, Gary Anderson offers some advice to military personnel trying to provide humanitarian assistance in Haiti. It’s a great article – plain spoken and based on personal experience. His recommendations run from getting permission to fly non Department of Defense personnel in military airplanes to not starting air drops.

Two points really stood out for me:

1)      Respecting NGO capacities and knowledge. This is a recurring theme of the article. NGOs, says Anderson, have the knowledge and skills to handle things like providing food aid, and setting up field mortuaries. He also recommends hanging over all emergency operations as soon as they are capable of taking them on. This also leads to the second point that struck me –

2)      Your best people are the ones that cause mission creep. Anderson puts it well: “Doctors and engineers always want to make things better, and in these kinds of operations, better is the enemy of good enough.”

I was also interested in his off-hand recommendation that air drops of supplies be avoided. He points out that air dropped supplies can kill people when they land, or cause riots. At a time when so many people are advocating air drops, it’s valuable to hear the counter-argument.