Humanitarianism Puts Military to Good Use

The opinion-page article `` `Armed Humanitarianism' Has No Place in US Foreign Policy,'' Dec. 15, states that the use of United States military forces for humanitarian missions is a waste of time and misuse of resources. On the contrary, it is an excellent ``projection of power'' (a major military strategic role) and training vehicle, aside from long-term goodwill that may be generated.

Military forces typically have rather boring and unproductive months or years until suddenly they are faced with terrifying combat situations. Having them do something useful while they wait to fulfill the combat role is good for all concerned. At most only about one of every 10 soldiers actually has a direct combat job. The other nine transport, feed, clothe, and otherwise support that single combatant. Thus conducting a humanitarian mission allows the 90 percent to practice their jobs under ``real'' circumstances similar to what combat would be like.

Our forces are paid, fed, and given resources for training every day; why not use these well-equipped, fast-reacting, talented groups to meet human needs?

The author also mentions not getting involved with the brutish actions within another culture. That is not a defensible argument given that small threats can multiply into huge problems if left unchecked.

It is often only a very small, powerful elite exercising the destructive manipulation within a country. The challenge is to neutralize that negative influence peacefully while helping common people who are caught up in forces they cannot control or escape.

Is there a role in that for the US military? I believe so. Early, sharp reaction - perhaps destruction of a token economic target without loss of life - may have reduced or halted Serbian aggression.

Haiti is another case where the mass of people are victimized by a few. Had our recent contingent of trainers and helpers been escorted by a small combat force, that country could now be functioning with its elected government in place.

The role of the military in the future will probably involve little of ``Desert Storm'' and lots of Serbia/Somalia/Haiti situations. Robert M. Gregson, Vashon, Wash.

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