U.S. Foreign Policy and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Humanitarian Relief in Complex Emergencies

A shrewd and unconventional assessment of the anatomy, political setting, and operational challenges of "complex humanitarian emergencies." Natsios, who has wide experience in relief programs (as government bureaucrat, military officer, and nongovernmental organization executive), writes perceptively of both the need for and limits of these enterprises. He argues that the United States has an interest in leading the response to such disasters, insisting (against nonpolitical humanitarians) that public support will erode, if not collapse, if the case for such assistance is placed on the ground of pure altruism. At the same time, however, he thinks that humanitarian operations must be kept separate and distinct from the State Department, whose geopolitical perspective, he fears, will compromise the humanitarian objectives that ought to be at the forefront of relief operations. His resolution of this delicate question may certainly be questioned: humanitarian operations that have pernicious political consequences (like the reconstitution of Hutu forces, abetted by humanitarian aid, that occurred after the Rwandan genocide) are more highly suspect than the author allows.

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