I am doing a series of articles on the book “Rethinking Canadian Aid” (University of Ottawa Press, 2015), and now it’s time for “Chapter 8: Preventing, Substituting or Complementing the Use of Force?” by Justin Massie and Stéphane Roussel.
When did military operations and development assistance policies become integrated foreign policy tools? For what politico-strategic purposes? Despite significant literature on human security, failed and failing states, peacebuilding, humanitarian wars, and even foreign aid as an instrument of foreign policy, the relationship between official development assistance (ODA) and the use of military force as converging tools of statecraft remains under-analyzed.
When I saw the title of the section, I was afraid that the analysis might end up being better suited to an NGO rant than quality academic analysis. Many NGOs wrongly assume that everything a military does is has to be about force. Many would add to that by misquoting Henry Kissinger and further characterize the military as evil, hence all they’re actions are evil. It’s popular, it’s emotionally compelling, sure, but it’s also facile and false. True academic analysis would look at the actions, note whether they add to development or detract from development, and ignore who is doing them. Whether the NGOs admit it or not, there are two pretty compelling aspects to military engagement, particularly when it looks like blue helmets doing peacekeeping: first, the basic reality that development can’t happen if two sides in a conflict are shooting at each other; and second, if a rebel force is shooting women who had the audacity to learn to read, do you want soldiers telling them to stop or development aid workers asking them nicely?
Unfortunately, the approach assumes far too much with depicting the relationship between aid and the military as boiling down to just three things:
- aid as a means to prevent future military action and/or violence escalation;
- aid as a preferred alternative to the use of force in the attainment of states’ national objectives; and
- a complement to military action for similar political objectives.
Really? Those are the alternatives? If you have to force-fit into those three categories, I’m sure they’ll find exactly what they’re assuming. However, how about a different framework:
- Aid only to a crisis location, with mainly development goals;
- Aid and military assistance together to a crisis location, with multiple goals; and,
- Military assistance only.
And then look at each of the three to see if development and/or military goals were achieved.
Back in 2004-05, the OECD Development Assistance Committee dealt with this type of issue in some detail, and without the academic rhetoric or the normative undertones. Basically, the question was very simple — are there any actions done by the military that meet the definition of development assistance that would allow the costs incurred to be counted as ODA? It wasn’t a quiet debate, with lots of countries having very different views about multiple issues. But let’s be clear — the debate wasn’t about whether it needed to be done, or the military’s role in doing it, or even the prerequisite links to effective development assistance, the debate was whether it should or could be counted towards ODA levels. After that, the question moves to “how to make it work together” to make it more effective.
Peacebuilding, in other words, is conceived of as an integrated and coherent agenda involving mutually reinforcing development- and security-related policies. From this perspective, for example, antiterrorist policies and development assistance are inextricably linked.
Actually, that isn’t what it says. It says there are links between the goals of security and the goals of development — that development can help build peace, and peace is the underpinning of development. It doesn’t mean that every element is inextricably linked nor that it is a fully integrated or coherent agenda. In some cases, it could be as simple as saying “If you’re delivering humanitarian assistance in a hot zone, maybe the military force can provide cover.” It’s about seeing what links are there and making sure they work together or are at least neutral to each other (policy coherence only in the sense of administrative non-competitiveness), rather than creating links that aren’t there. Relying on the assumptions that Canada has pursued self-interested policies, contrary to Swiss demolishing such theories in Chapter 6 (Critique of Rethinking Canadian Aid – Chapter 6 – Mimicry and Motives), ). the analysis is pretty linear but pretty interesting for the Marshall Plan, Colombo Plan, and the new “Commonwealth”. It’s a pretty far reach to say foreign aid was focused on conflict prevention, but if you start with only three buckets, any sieve will do I suppose. Equally, it’s hard to conceive of human rights programming as a “substitute” for military action, not the least of which is that effective sustainable human rights programming requires a zone that is beyond the need for ongoing military action.
Despite the rhetoric, there are three areas worthy of special attention where the links were more forced than real. Axworthy drove the human security agenda and tied to it, landmine awareness. Both were pretty active areas. Equally, post-911, more attention was given to the links between security (mainly looked at by the military) and governance issues (mainly in the domain of development). In all three instances, there were links, but none of them were mainstream military nor aid policies — it was limited to small portions of the budget, not a complete revamp of either policy. Too bad the analysis amounts to no more than repeating policy statements used to sell aid to the masses, picking and choosing one or two key phrases while ignoring 300 others about development that made no reference to security.