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Humanitarian Intervention, Assisting the Iraqi Kurds in Operation Provide Comfort, 1991.

Humanitarian Intervention, Assisting the Iraqi Kurds in Operation Provide Comfort, 1991. By Gordon W. Rudd. Washington, DC: Department of the Army, 280 pages, $34.

Gordon Rudd wrote his doctoral dissertation on the humanitarian intervention to save Kurdish refugees in Iraq in 1991 and converted the dissertation into this book. Rudd, who had served with Special Forces and infantry units in the U.S. Army, taught national security studies and served as a Department of Defense historian after retiring.

After Desert Storm ended, about one million Kurds and other refugees fled their homes from the advancing Iraqi Army in March and April 1991. An estimated 500,000 Kurdish men, women and children fled to the mountains of southern Turkey. The harsh weather conditions and lack of necessary supplies caused much suffering and death. Rudd's account focuses on how the U.S. military organized, planned and deployed to deal with the massive problems that came with such a large number of refugees.

The book reads like a converted dissertation, sometimes hiding the fascinating story of saving refugees behind the dry style of academia. Outstanding content, however, makes this human catastrophe guidebook required reading for officers assigned to work humanitarian or disaster relief missions. The organizational details alone will save precious man-hours in setting up a response effort to similar catastrophes.

The United Nations planning was inadequate considering the huge numbers involved in the Kurdish refugee situation; prepositioned stocks of food, water, and shelter were wiped out within a week. An alert order was sent on a Friday night to Air Force Major General James Jamerson and by Sunday, the first airdrops of supplies landed in the refugee area. The 10th Special Forces Group was deployed and worked on the immediate problems of water pollution, poor sanitation ,and malnutrition in an attempt to stop the high death rate.

The joint task force staff came into the crisis with no formal doctrine and no operational plans for a massive humanitarian assistance operation. The Special Forces were required to walk a fine line in providing security from armed militia groups and bringing humanitarian aid to the refugees.

If you take brief notes while reading Rudd's work, the result will be a rough guideline for a humanitarian intervention, such as:

1. Assign sectors to an SF "A-team;"

2. Organize refugee camps by establishing drop zones, landing zones, identifying the leaders of the group, establishing work parties, establishing food distribution, medical care distribution and basic field sanitation for disposal of waste;

3. Create a clean water source and organize the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to provide various forms of assistance; and

4. Organize immunization clinics to prevent disease outbreaks as well as organize meetings to pass information, promote security, understanding and the eventual relocation of refugees.

The humanitarian story has many useful pointers throughout such as sending more communication support initially to cut through the chaos and create order. It also discusses the task force's efforts to bring in clean water and identifies which efforts worked better than others.

Humanitarian Intervention is an invaluable guide to running large scale humanitarian operations. Every officer should get a copy, read through it highlighting the lessons learned, and keep it on their professional reference bookshelf at least until retirement. This guide to setting up humanitarian operations could save a lot of trouble and lives during the next humanitarian crisis.

Reviewed by Major Keith Everett, U.S. Army Reserve.
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Author:Everett, Keith
Publication:Infantry Magazine
Date:Mar 1, 2007
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