Militarization of public diplomacy

Nicholas Kristof's March 4, 2007, column, Aid Workers with Guns (sub req'd), raises the profile of our HOA (Horn of Africa) mission:

So that's why the softer touch in Centcom's strategy here is so welcome. It aims to help bring stability to northeastern Africa and to address humanitarian needs -- knowing that humanitarian involvement will make us safer as well.

"The U.S. started to realize that there's more to counterterrorism than capture-kill kinetics," said Capt. Patrick Myers of the Navy, director of plans and policy here. "Our mission is 95 percent at least civil affairs. ... It's trying to get at the root causes of why people want to take on the U.S."

One humanitarian mission for which the U.S. military is superbly prepared is responding to natural disasters. While the U.S. has spent vast sums broadcasting propaganda to the Muslim world, the two most successful efforts at winning good will both involved the military. One was the dispatch of soldiers to help Indonesia after the 2004 tsunami, and the other was the use of U.S. forces to help Pakistan after the Kashmir earthquake.

To be sure, the mission isn't new, just gaining profile:

Pretty cool is CENTCOM's plans to provide resources in HOA languages (Amharic, Somali, French, Arabic) to enhance the public diplomacy, but nothing but an empty template so far. Maybe they should have just linked to VOA's HOA language service...

More on militarization of humanitarian aid can be heard at JHU's Rethinking War series, specifically Robert Kaplan's seminar. I also recommend Kaplan's Imperial Grunts on this topic.