The New Airpower: More than Warfare

When thinking about disaster relief and humanitarian aid, we often see NGOs as the major players. In addition, we often see governments and militaries as the bad guys in the field of development work. It is important to keep in mind, though, that the military is no longer confined to linear warfare. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, militaries dealt increasingly with natural disasters, humanitarian relief operations, resource conflicts, terrorism, small-scale conventional conflicts, and insurgencies. Some of the most prominent forces in disaster relief are militaries.

According to an article from the International Relations and Security Network in Zurich, the United States Air Force (USAF) recently modified its definition of airpower. In the past, airpower was limited to war-faring aircrafts and pioneering spacecraft. The definition of airpower now includes cyber power. It is important to note that USAF does not see cyber power as a channel for carrying out operations but rather an enabler that facilitates improved operations.

This new take on military operations just goes to show the increasing importance of ICTs. If the military is becoming increasingly involved in disaster relief and humanitarian aid, while it’s broadening its definition of airpower to include cyber technology, it sets the stage for utilizing ICTs in disasters. ICTs are not only useful in their own respects (early warning systems, government alerts on iPhones, locating missing persons, mapping, etc.), but they can be used to improve existing operations. ICTs could help the military, and NGOS as well, manage their soldiers/volunteers, track distribution of aid materials, improve efficiency of aid delivery, and the list goes on. If you needed a reason before to consider ICTs a crucial part of humanitarian work, take a look at the United States Air Force who is restructuring itself to include natural disasters as a part of its duties and ICTs a part of its anatomy.

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One response to “The New Airpower: More than Warfare

  • jboleky

    Really nice post this issue is certainly one of the more interesting debates in IDEV, should military get involved in development? There are many pro’s to including the military involved including efficiency, lack of restrictions on where they can and cant go, and an independent budget. However i believe they can only truly be effective in the very short term in a disaster scenario. They should be among the first responders, pave the way for other development organizations, and secure the area. The military does not really “rebuild” and they cost a large amount of taxpayer money to be anywhere. The other major con is that the military is SO easily politicized, and major issues of inequality could result. Imagine there is a country the US doesn’t necessarily get along with and we refused to send aid or military assistance. It would be terrible especially of the international community was relying on us to help. If we helped some disasters but not others for political reasons. Anyways it’s a very interesting discussion, thoughts?

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