|About the Book|
This is a collection of essays written by MSF staff, each covering a different conflict, its associated humanitarian crisis, and the humanitarian response. There were two ways in which I found it fascinating:1. As a source of news / contemporary history, it describes the stories that really matter and focuses on the aspects of them that matter. e.g. the conflict in the DRC has been the deadliest war since WW2, but newspaper coverage of it has been abysmal- not only is it incredibly scant, but its also written by people who have no idea how many people are dying, or why. For example, lots of media attention goes to civilians killed by soldiers deliberately or accidentally, but little to the war-related diseases that kill many more people.2. It speaks critically of various humanitarian aid programs, so that once you put together the chapters it adds up to a pretty systematic discussion of how aid can go wrong.This last was what I found particularly interesting. If there was a theme to it, it was that aid was often given by those who either didnt care about humanitarian outcomes or were too naive to think hard about outcomes, and that the results were often horrible. One of the most egregious examples was the US/WHO food aid to southern Sudan, which served to prolong a civil war that killed millions. This was done, argues the book, not by mistake but as part of a deliberate cold-war containment strategy that sought to weaken but not overthrow the government in Khartoum.The bottom line is that these are the foreign policy decisions that really matter to the world and this book provides a clarity and an angle I havent found anywhere else. I cant recommend it highly enough.