Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Aid for War Zones?

If certain countries or areas are unfortunate enough to get under attack by foreign powers of a pernicious character, the romantic view has it that there really is nothing for the attacked party to do but fight. Invariably, which side is under attack is about as divisive an issue as which football team is of greatest moral fibre. However, economic logic suggests that there is something else to do for a warring nation, namely give up and avoid a great deal of death and destruction. This is obviously a choice open to any political jurisdiction facing attack, so the reason there are wars must be that both combatants prefer it to no war.
As various conflicts rage on around the world, concerned third parties frequently offer to help the unfortunate victims by sending money and clothes, occasionally even attempting the dangerous journey to the war zone in question to distribute resources and help set up shelter. It strikes me that these well-intended actions probably take place under the romantic illusion that countries must fight wars. Because if countries fight wars out of choice, much of the help directed to war zones indirectly gives resources to the warring parties. For instance, soldiers fight more willingly if they are better fed and clothed, etc., and if they know the same to be true of their families and other cherished Landsleute. The resultant reduced war weariness translates into more funds available for bombing the other side.
Indeed, it may well be that certain wars take place because the leaders of the somewhat weaker side expect to be helped out by bleeding hearts abroad. This way, seemingly hopeless wars become winnable. The fortunes of various sides in the plentiful civil wars which have happened since the beginning of the so-called "Arab Spring" have been highly dependant on receiving support from foreign governments in particular. Of course, support, private or state, is also to be factored into the calculations done by the other side and may thereby make wars less numerous.

However, once both combatants receive support, if the "help" does not favour either party on net, the effect of aid for war zones may well be to just prolong the violence by strengthening both sides. The effect is not certain because some aid may not be "transformable" into support for the military, but it seems to me that these are sufficient reasons that one should be particularly careful when, for instance, sending shipments to the Levant.
What help would be more valuable to the unfortunate victims of war, then? One obvious way of helping them is to bring them to more peaceful places, where they do not have to fear bomb raids and the like. It is a lot to ask of anyone to arrange for the costly measures required to migrate the war victims. Fortunately, the hapless individuals can probably pay for their own ticket and do not require others to arrange for their exodus away from the war zone. Unfortunately, current policy often actively prevents war victims from moving, in the form of asylum and refugee caps and other ways of restricting immigration.

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