Economics and similar, for the sleep-deprived

A subtle change has been made to the comments links, so they no longer pop up. Does this in any way help with the problem about comments not appearing on permalinked posts, readers?

Update: seemingly not

Update: Oh yeah!

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Guns and Butter

On the whole, I think Rageh Omaar comes out best from the Live Aid / Tigray weapons(?) scandal. Scoring it from the sidelines:

Bob Geldof: A palpable hit in making the point that this sort of story needs to be handled with a hell of a lot of care and sensitivity, because what we're talking about here is the political neutrality of aid organisations, and when this gets undermined, people die. But I think he does actually extend this point to the level where he basically is saying that anyone distributing food in a famine zone is above criticism, and his refutation of the underlying story is of the brick-wall-denial type (with few specifics and a big attack on the critic) that never really convinces me.

Martin Plaut: Found a good story and clearly did meticulous work following it up (this is what I dislike about Geldof's critique - if he's going to systematically gainsay the credibility of all of Plaut's sources, surely the time to do this would have been when he was asked for an interview and declined). But IMO has exaggerated badly and takes a palpable hit on the point of fact that the mortality statistics demonstrate that significant amounts of humanitarian aid was reaching the consumers, meaning that it couldn't have been the case that diversion to military ends was anything like as complete as he suggests.

Rageh Omaar: Basically makes sensible points. I am not a fan of his conflation of "working with" the government of a territory and having your independence compromised - he is correct that the WFP has been pushed around in Somalia by the AQ affiliates who control most of the territory, but it's pretty obvious that there's a qualitative difference rather than a quantitative one between this and gun running.

But I can't help having the reaction ... would it be so very bad if the Tigrayans were spending some of the money on guns, if they needed guns? Getting Mengistu's boot off your throat was a short-term humanitarian need in the 80s, as well as a vital part of any long term development strategy. Obviously aid agencies can't support this sort of thing, and I would not in any way support it myself as a general policy (because of the question of who it is that gets to make the guns/butter decision - in general I would suspect it would be a self-aggrandising local autonomy movement, the functional local equivalent of the Decent Left). But in the context of a genuine national liberation movement with genuine popular support? I don't want to set a massive universalised moral condemnathon for those cases in which the decision goes to weapons rather than food. Bullets are like cigarettes - no matter how poor you are, you find a way of affording them.
15 comments this item posted by the management 3/09/2010 11:57:00 PM

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