Friday, September 11, 2009

When Handouts, Charity, and American Generosity Fuels Resentment

Sgt. Donald Herring from the Army's 64th Armored Regiment distributes toys to Iraqi children during a joint patrol with Iraqi soldiers in Baghdad's Mansour neighborhood.
oleg popov, reuters

Not everyone appreciates being offered handouts. It can be quite insulting.

Apparently, all those instances of American soldiers passing out toys and candy and school supplies to Afghan children might be doing some harm in counterinsurgency operations. Instead of goodwill, such handouts may be breeding resentment by shaming and embarrassing Afghan parents who aren't able to provide such items for their children, themselves.

Thomas Ricks has an interesting post, pointing out a piece by David Wood:

I remembered accompanying a Marine officer through villages in Iraq's Anbar Province. He'd pull out a handful of candy as kids crowded and jumped. Then he'd ask, "Who'd like a soccer ball?'' and he'd summon an aide and hand out a few balls. In the distance, I noticed men who'd just brought their kids to school standing in the shadows, glowering at this scene. Their resentment seemed palpable, that their kids were crowding around an American handing out presents that they couldn't afford for their own children.

Here in Afghanistan, a different war but the same American impulse of generosity. And to what end? I put this question to an American officer, a man who works closely and professionally with Afghans and whose opinion I respect. "The feedback we get from Afghans,'' he said, "is that this kind of give-away makes them feel like dogs."

Ricks offers a commonsense solution:

Empower local authorities-police, teachers, tribal leaders, and parents by giving them the soccer balls, books, pencils and pens, and letting them distribute them equitably. And by their own lights. It might not make the troops feel as good in the short term, but it sure makes a difference in the long run.

Cross-posted at Flopping Aces

An Iraqi national policeman gives candy to a child while on a walking patrol with U.S. Army soldiers in the Rashid community in Bahgdad, Iraq, Dec. 6, 2008. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Todd Frantom


Blogger Chuck said...

This is an interesting take on the issue. No doubt you agree that the troops have good intentions and are doing this because they want to. At the same time, I would feel ashamed if I could not provide for my children. It is an interesting study in the needs of the country as a whole v the needs of the individuals of the country. The countries themselves have no shame in holding their hands out but the country is made up of the individuals. I don't know what to think of it. Nice thought provoking post

Friday, September 11, 2009 9:56:00 AM  
Blogger Average American said...

Lotta truth in this post. It was the same way in Vietnam. We'd give the kids soda and candy and then end up buying a can of soda "downtown" that might even be the one you gave away that morning.

Friday, September 11, 2009 10:19:00 PM  
Blogger rockybutte said...

Now that we've had our hearts warmed be prepared to have your stomach turned. Make sure you check out the photos of the kids.

Yeah, I know...war is hell.

Friday, September 18, 2009 9:12:00 PM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Thanks, rockybutte. Love photos like these! I have a forensics text filled with photos of people who have died from all sorts of ghastly injuries like these.

So what's your point? Doesn't phase me in the slightest regarding the need to fight wars and to win wars. Nor does the fact that people die in them delegitimize our presence in Iraq.

Friday, September 18, 2009 9:25:00 PM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Love the way the site blames Bush for all of it and for "hiding" it from the American public. Geez!

As you say, "war is hell". ALL wars. Same stuff happened in Iraq under Saddam. Same stuff happens today because of insurgents and terrorists. Not because American soldiers are purposely targeting innocents.

Friday, September 18, 2009 9:31:00 PM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said... much twisted logic at that site.

Thank you!

Friday, September 18, 2009 9:35:00 PM  

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