Humanitarian acts as antidotes to war
Disasters can cause even adversarial nations to enjoy heart-to-heart moments of compassion. Russia delivers emergency fuel to an Alaskan town; the US Navy rescued Iranian fishermen.
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In 2009, the Pentagon opened a special corridor in its building to display past humanitarian relief, both at home and abroad, from the late 1940s to present day. In Pentagon terms, such aid is included along with other nonviolent efforts as “military operations other than war,” or MOOTW.Skip to next paragraph
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Hanoi and Washington have drawn closer with a large delivery of medical aid to Vietnam. In 2008, the hospital ship USNS Mercy visited the wartime port of Nha Trang, the first time a US military vessel had anchored there since 1975.
Last year’s ouster of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi was the end result of a US and NATO campaign that began simply as a humanitarian act. Qaddafi forces threatened to strike the rebel-held city of Benghazi. As fighting went on, President Obama condoned the idea that Mr. Qaddafi himself had to be cornered by airstrikes to allow “regime change.”
China’s Navy has begun to talk of taking on humanitarian operations. Its ships already participate in international efforts to prevent piracy off of Somalia. Beijing and Washington are also talking about working together on international relief efforts.
The International Committee of the Red Cross, perhaps the model of humanitarianism, has set up social media sites for anyone to share personal acts of humanitarian deeds. In the US, the number of emergency-management programs in higher education has tripled over the past decade in response to the rise of natural disasters and terrorist attacks.
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Humanitarian acts don’t always bring goodwill. The US remains frustrated with Pakistan for many reasons over their joint fight against the Taliban, despite substantial US aid during Pakistan’s natural disasters, such as the 2010 massive floods.
But the world needs more acts of generosity between nations to ease the potential for war. Just ask the 3,500 people of Nome what they think of Russia’s help.