Monday, November 11, 2013

Loaded Questions on a Depressing Subject

Total devastation in the Philippines, this morning.
Another horrific natural disaster has rocked the world... Typhoon Haiyan has left a scar across the Philippines as it ripped through this weekend. Leaders are saying upwards of 10,000 people may have died, but millions have been impacted. Why is this being posted on a national security blog? First, because undoubtedly, the US will send some portion of aid through its military. (This post is not intended to take a stance on whether the military should be involved in humanitarian aid, although there are plenty of arguments against it...) These kinds of disasters also can affect our own security because of a draining of resources. Regardless, I would like to point out several questions and thoughts that have entered my mind each time a new horrific disaster hits our news. Such as...
The Aftermath of Katrina
That the increasing frequency of huge natural disasters should point out the US's relative lack of discussion about preparing for the next Katrina, Sandy, or tornado disaster. Every time we are hit by a huge disaster, we are shocked- how could this happen here!? Why weren't we prepared?? But let's be honest. Countries like Haiti and Indonesia have hard far more than their fair share of disasters... minus all the resources that we have. The US is not immune to disaster. We know this. But seeing devastation in other countries should evoke discussion about how to be better prepared.
Joplin, MO
That in the US, the Coast Guard, National Guard, and other military groups are basically the first responders to natural disasters. We also tend to be some of the first people on the scene in other countries.. Such as Haiti. Does this send the right message? Does it matter what message is sent when there is such need, such desperate circumstances? I do not know the answer to this. But as we know, military arms such as UN Peacekeepers have been accused of all kinds of wrongdoing, from rape to the spread of disease. Does the military, of any kind, need to be the main assistance mechanism for disasters zones?
US Military provides aid after the 2010 Earthquake in Haiti
That no matter what we do to respond to disasters, need persists. where need persists, there is heightened vulnerability. Those of us who have studied weak states and state collapse understand that vulnerability leads to a plethora of problems for US national security (and of course, for the state itself, surrounding states, etc.). If in a year, or a few years, the Philippines is left in horrible conditions despite the completion of aid groups' mandates and projects... if people are still left in abject poverty, homeless, and without jobs or security, there could be a real security risk. Problems such as insurgencies, extremism, human trafficking, militancy, and smuggling increase dramatically when the level of poverty and vulnerability of people increases. It may not be now. It may be 10 years from now, when  children who were orphaned grow up and become disillusioned, impoverished young adults.
Yes, I am exaggerating a bit. But this is really what I think about when I hear of these disasters. When our leaders say (in word or deed) that it isn't our job to help rebuild other countries after disasters, we should point them to these questions. They are relevant concerns, and while they may or may not come to fruition, we must be aware of their potential. I write this post to encourage a continuing discussion. What do you think? Are natural disasters a threat to our national security? Do we have a responsibility to respond to these disasters, and if so, with what means? Is the military an appropriate mechanism for response? I would love to hear your thoughts.

1 comment:

breakerbreaker19 said...

Also, FYI. The US Navy has now sent Warships to the Philippines...