A thought provoking write-up by Joel Charny of Relief International:
The United States response to the displacement crisis in Georgia resulting from the conflict with Russia over the status of South Ossetia and Abkhazia is a blatant example of the increasing militarization of humanitarian action. Refugees International has been expressing deep concerns about this trend in Africa, but the Georgia response takes it to a new level.
Humanitarian response is supposed to embody the following principles: humanity (responding where the need is greatest; independence (responding based solely on the vulnerability of the individuals in distress rather than reflecting the priorities of other actors); impartiality (responding without applying political criteria or supporting any particular government or political movement). Describing the U.S. response to the current situation in Georgia as a “humanitarian mission” is therefore a serious distortion. The President and the Secretaries of State and Defense, while insisting on the humanitarian nature of the U.S. response, chose to have the Pentagon lead it, with the Air Force organizing relief flights and joining with the Army in distributing the supplies. While the Air Force in an August 14 press release pays lip service to supporting coordination by the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development with Georgian officials, the face of the relief effort is clearly a military one.