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Devastation and Lost Opportunities for Peace in Pakistan

August 27, 2010

The humanitarian disaster unfolding in Pakistan is almost too devastating to fathom.  Today’s New York Times reports that over 4 million people are without shelter from the massive flooding.  I can’t even picture that in my mind.  The destruction to an already weak infrastructure will mean generations more will have to live in dire conditions as the country struggles to rebuild from the impact of the disaster.   And what will be the impact on violent conflict in the region, conflict in which the U.S. is intensely embroiled?

So far the news has focused on how the U.S. is sending some relief and, more importantly for many in Washington, having to find new supply routes for the war in Afghanistan.  But no one seems to be complaining about the huge opportunity the U.S. has missed to shift conflict dynamics in the region and help the millions caught in the rising waters.

Many people would like the military to use its massive resources and equipment for more humanitarian good, but with so much readily available equipment and personnel nearby very little has been done to use the U.S.’s military might to really make a difference for Pakistanis and the U.S. image in the region.   Instead, the “good news” is that the military is finding ways around the massive disaster to make sure its own supply routes get through to continue the war.  (For anyone who thinks the military can be transformed to being a great force for good, please take note.)

If the U.S. really wanted to win friends in Pakistan and prove it cares about stability in the region, why wasn’t there a massive shift of U.S. military equipment and personnel to help rescue and relocate the millions fleeing for their lives?  Why hasn’t DoD made a big media show of how its presence in the region can bring relief and security, not just more violence and resentment?  As my colleague Jim Fine suggests, why didn’t the U.S. call for an immediate truce to address the disaster and place the burden of responding on those on the other side?

Colleagues at Refugees International will soon go to Pakistan to assess the disaster as the first mission of their new Climate Displacement program.  When Marcia and I met with them earlier this week,we talked about how the flooding in Pakistan represents the perfect storm of climate-related environmental degradation, humanitarian disaster, and violent conflict.  How the situation has been impacted by and will in turn impact more environmental problems and conflict dynamics in Pakistan and the region is not clearly known.  And even more unclear, is whether and how the U.S. and international community can improve the response to the immediate crisis and help Pakistan and the region recover and rebuild in ways that advance real human security, reduce the problems of climate change, and help mitigate violent conflict.

Let’s hope they do a better job than we’ve seen so far.

One Comment
  1. sandy valencour@msn.com permalink
    August 28, 2010 9:20 pm

    Honestly, I don’t think it is hate for reasons of slow donations and little donations to help these poor people in flooded areas. Oh, I am NOT happy or proud of our home actions, one bit. I honestly believe we are broke. Count the horrible things that have happened all over the world and our gulf coast states are still trying to fight their way back. My donation request is up 500% but my income hasn’t changed (social security). I am the greatest animal lover in the world but just can’t donate anything to them anymore. To me, there is no color change, we are one. I will respect other religions and expect them my right to believe any way I want, even NOT believing in organized religion but the bible as a whole, Love one another, Care for the poor, judge not lest ye be judged. This past year alone has caused me to give up foods, prescriptions. I don’t leave my house for weeks at a time as I can’t afford the gas. NO, it is no ones fault, it is life and my belief in helping any way possible. This country has all illegal immigrant except for Native Americans. Yet, here we stand so puffed up and full of ourselves. Whether Christians know it or not, they won’t be going to heaven for spouting hate in the name of God. I don’t care what they call HIM. You know there is but one God for all. Two people NEVER see a car wreck the same and that is true. So, we don’t see God the same. I am the only one that I have to face every morning in a mirror. If I hated and lied as much as most American, I am working for the devil, NOT GOD. I don’t have to jump on some subject and continue to spread lies to get my way. I am so sick and tired of idiots saying Obama is Muslim. If he were, SO WHAT. It is his right to pray or contact God any way he wants. We are now fighting good citizens, Muslim Americans on what????? They can’t have a place to gather to pray. You know they are far more religious and devoute than ANY AMERICAN. Most spend an hour a week to “plan their next hate attack?” They walk out and forget everything till the next week.. All people are children of God, ALL, even gays and lesbions, Mexicans, ALL. You have started in fighting in families using God against them. Truly my view is churches are to help those in trouble but they ban these very people from attending. As a past Catholic, I saw it with my own two eyes and spoke out with my big loud mouth. If you aren’t fighting a problem then you are a part of this anti everyone America. All should shut the hell up and listen once in awhile, learn (if capable), look to the good God for answeres. God does NOT back wars and never has but we puffed up humans abuse his name daily with the lies.
    I am so sorry about the soap box. I feel so bad for those people and just can’t help. I would leave my family and go there but who has the money for air fare? So very many people are suffering in so many places

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