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Old 08-01-2008   #2
Ken White
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Join Date: May 2007
Location: Florida
Posts: 8,060
Default My experience is somewhat dated but in my

observation on four continents with a dozen or so NGOs (and a like number of Govt / UN Orgs) the issue was often stated as you say but my perception was that the reality was often not a lack of understanding, rather a vastly different approach to the best solution.

IMO there were some on both sides who fit the 'don't have a clue' bill but most of the disagreements, while often couched in those terms really revolved around appropriate measures required. There's an almost visceral rejection of violence or even constraint on the part of some and a predilection to both those on the part of others. Those were the extreme; most of the disagreements really boiled down to turf and ego battles with a propensity for a soft approach from the non-mil types and a harder edged option on the part of the military guys with each accusing the other of not understanding.

Most of the time, I could see merit in both sides. About half the time it got worked out but rarely to everyone's satisfaction. That generally seems to happen when the truth -- as it often does -- lies between two poles.

How's that for no help...

ADDENDUM: I omitted to mention what most of us know; that most, not all, of the Development folks truly want to help the local people and they are occasionally if not generally agnostic about who's on which side (a matter of mild concern to the mil types generally). They are focused on helping. They also seem to often forget that the military guys are there for a reason and that reason may be antithetical to some or all the Development issues. Conversely, while some military folks, again not all, do tend to adopt the kill 'em all and let god sort 'em out mantra they've got a job to do and the Development crowd can truly (purposely or not) interfere with that -- that dichotomy often resolves itself into the "They don't have a clue" mentality by both sides. While the two can sometimes agree and can usually find some common ground on which to proceed, most of the cases I've seen involved a 'loss' by the development folks. Seemed to me that usually it was the difference between a generic focus on 'help' and more tightly focused view of the 'mission' with the slightly more narrowly focused side winning the argument followed by complaints of not understanding from the Development folks -- sometimes they were correct, sometimes not. It is a knotty problem, no question.

The live-it-up Expat development types while few compared to those living poorly and roughly don't help, nor do the hard charging, take no prisoners and don't bother me with facts military types. Fortunately, there are more sensible people in both spheres (and I think more now than back in my day) but I suspect it's a problem that'll never entirely go away -- that focus thing. Mars and Venus and all that...

Last edited by Ken White; 08-01-2008 at 03:20 AM. Reason: Addendum
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