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The DoD-CARE Humanitarian Connection
Prepared remarks Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, USA, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, CARE 50th Anniversary Symposium, Washington, , Friday, May 10, 1996

Defense Issues: Volume 11, Number 39-- The DoD-CARE Humanitarian Connection American generosity aids millions of people around the world. One prominent ex-World War II refugee -- the top U.S. military officer -- knows well both that helping hand and its influence on military doctrine.


Volume 11, Number 39

The DoD-CARE Humanitarian Connection

Prepared remarks of Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, USA, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at the CARE 50th Anniversary Symposium, Washington, May 10, 1996.

Thank you ... for that kind introduction. I am honored that you would ask me to speak at your 50th anniversary symposium. I am also delighted to be here because although CARE and the U.S. armed forces are not exactly in the same business, we are partners -- partners in operations and partners in the search for peace and stability.

In the past, our Marines were proud to claim that they were the first to fight. Today, in the war against inhumanity and instability, that title belongs every bit as much to humanitarian organizations like CARE. You are not only there before the troops land, but you remain behind after the armed forces leave, trying to rebuild and to help countries put conflict behind them.

The activities of CARE and its sister organizations in a way remind me of the old children's rhyme about Humpty Dumpty. "After the great fall," CARE and its sister organizations must accomplish what "all the king's horses and all the king's men" tried but failed to do: And that is to put the broken nations, the fractured societies and the victims of nature's wrath, to put them back together again.

And all over the world, every day, you work your miracles diligently, methodically and persistently, one human being, one disaster, one nation at a time. In so doing, you have become the living embodiment of voluntarism and of the American spirit. You have also become an important complement to our leadership-oriented foreign policy.

CARE's mission, the protection and affirmation of the dignity and worth of individuals in the poorest countries, is surely a noble one. As many of you know, since 1945, CARE has touched over a billion people, in nearly every country on Earth.

As all of you know as well, CARE began with a world in ruins. The United States was the only intact, prosperous democracy. Europe was destroyed. Frost, famine, disease and despair knocked at the door. The specter of communism hung over the continent.

No one will ever forget what America did for Europe and the postwar world in those days. Harry Truman said it best: "The Marshall Plan was one of America's greatest contributions to the peace of the world." And he, of course, was right. With the Berlin Airlift, with the Marshall Plan, with NATO and, yes, with CARE, U.S. policy, together with hard work by the Europeans, closed the door to communism, ended famine, conquered disease and restored hope to Western Europe.

But assistance from the United States government and private volunteer organizations for me is not just an abstract notion or a set of statistics. My family and I, as refugees in war-torn Europe, were helped more than you will ever know by the generous donations of the people of the United States.

One of the first CARE packages sent to Europe in the summer of 1946 gave this young refugee his first taste of peanut butter, his first mouthful of that exotic fruit, raisins, and most importantly, his first glass of powdered milk. What terrific memories! For years afterward, even to today, CARE packages have been "America" to me and millions like me. No one form of humanitarian assistance has ever had such a public recognition before or after as the CARE package.

And today, CARE's great work continues in the Balkans, in Somalia, in Rwanda, in Haiti -- all over the world -- to help people, to heal societies, to help rehabilitate failed states to contribute to the peace of the world. In 1995 alone, CARE's 500 projects touched almost 54 million people in 66 countries. CARE has, in its very own fashion, outdone "all the king's horses and all the king's men." In the years since the Cold War, I have watched with great admiration the extraordinarily dedicated employees and volunteers of CARE, who move from one tragedy to the next at great risk to themselves to bring, literally, the miracle of life to so many.

Before this morning's panel, where you will hear from the real experts on rehabilitating states after conflicts, I thought I would give you my views on how this partnership between CARE and the armed forces looks from my perspective. My perspective is, of course, that of someone whose principal task is to ensure that our armed forces are ready, today and tomorrow, to fight and win our nation's wars. But my perspective is also that of someone who understands that peace operations and humanitarian assistance operations, and thus the partnership between nongovernmental organizations and the armed forces, are a permanent feature of today's strategic landscape.

If I may, let me briefly discuss three changes: changes in the security environment, changes in our forces and changes in why and how our nation uses its armed forces in the pursuit of our interests. At the end, let me offer a few random thoughts on postconflict rehabilitation.

To begin, while we are safer today than we were during the Cold War, our world is awash in turbulence. The end of the Cold War liberated repressed nationalism's, overstressed weak states and tempted regional aggressors.

Today, some three dozen ethnic, tribal or religious-based conflicts dot the globe. Our hopes for a new world order have been drowned in a seemingly endless disorder. Far from being the end of history, the end of the Cold War marked the rebirth of instability in many countries. This instability, in turn, has bred calamity, and calamity, in turn, has bred human tragedy. Consequently, the demands on CARE have, I am sure, increased dramatically.

A second set of changes flowed from the changing security environment. Without the threat of superpower conflict, we are safer. The safety of this post-Cold War world, as unstable as it is, has enabled the U.S. to cut its forces, but that instability has also reminded us to keep our forces ready and capable of meeting the basic requirement of handling two nearly simultaneous major conflicts as well as the many peace operations and humanitarian operations that have come our way.

We in the United States can be proud of how we managed the drawdown of our armed forces after the Cold War. For the first time after a war, we have been able to manage deep cuts without destroying the capabilities or the readiness of our armed forces.

At the same time, we have kept the armed forces ready, and it's a good thing we did. Because of the instabilities that I mentioned, our small force has been a very busy force indeed. It has been a force caught between the requirements to deter or prepare for war and the need to engage in peace operations.

Since Desert Storm, we have conducted nearly 40 operations. Today, we have 11 operations ongoing, directly involving nearly 50,000 of our military personnel. Typically, in more than half of these operations, our forces are in sight of our nongovernmental organization partners, like CARE.

And this brings us to the third major change in the post-Cold War era: changes in why and how we can use the armed forces to secure our interests.

During the Cold War, it was almost inconceivable that we would use force in a major way unless it involved a vital national interest. Any major use of force on our part could have triggered opposition from Soviet-backed forces. Moreover, we had to be concerned about small conflicts escalating to major wars between the superpowers, each backed by its own alliance system. Finally, sending a large force to pursue a nonvital interest could jeopardize the reinforcement of a more important theater, like Europe, where NATO and the Warsaw Pact had massed forces standing toe to toe.

After the Cold War, both Presidents Bush and Clinton could more easily and with less risk use American forces to secure not just vital interests, but also less important interests. They also more readily used military forces to achieve humanitarian interests in places like northern Iraq or in Rwanda, where the humanitarian crises were so enormous that they overwhelmed regular humanitarian organizations.

There are no ironclad rules that govern the employment of forces or the use of force. However, let me offer a few guidelines that are based on lessons that we have learned over the last five or six years.

First, when employing force for important interests, we, the U.S. and our allies or coalition partners, must be prudent and selective. Doing everything, everywhere, all the time will lead to disaster. On the other hand, doing nothing may risk harm to our interests and keep us from using our power for legitimate and good purposes. Woodrow Wilson reminded us that "America cannot be an ostrich with its head in the sand." I am sure that he would also agree that we cannot have our head in the clouds.

Second, before we use force, we must have exhausted other means to solve the problem. In every case, legitimacy and perceived legitimacy will weigh heavily in our decisions to use our forces and, if necessary, to employ force. We must be right. Indeed, the American people demand it! We must also act in accordance with international law and, in most cases, with the support of international organizations and coalition partners.

On this point, it is important to differentiate between force and forces. While using force may be a last resort, we will often find ourselves using forces to deter or to prevent conflicts. Using forces is a lesser means than using force, and we should use different standards to evaluate it.

Third, as always, the gravity of the interest will determine the amount of resources that we can put against any operation, as well as its duration. We will, of course, always put enough forces against any mission to achieve success decisively and in a timely manner.

Fourth, for humanitarian interests, we must be even more selective. We must have a situation where humanitarian organizations are overwhelmed and where the magnitude of the situation suggests that a major effort is warranted, and Fifth, in every case, before we use force, we must be sure that the armed forces can, in fact, make an appropriate contribution to solving the problem in a reasonable amount of time. This means that the military must be able to fashion clear, distinct operational objectives that will contribute to the accomplishment of the goals of the overall mission.

Coincident with these goals, we must ensure that the command and control arrangements for our forces match the risks and complexity of the situation. In general, the more risk and the more U.S. forces dominate in an operation, the more likely it will be that the U.S. will insist on operational control of the mission. And certainly, the higher the likelihood of combat, the more likely the U.S. will insist on operational control.

Let me briefly address a few of the cases which reflect the learning process that is inherent in these guidelines.

Operation Provide Comfort, our effort to rescue the Kurds, is a good example of a focused humanitarian operation. Provide Comfort was a vivid example of the partnership between the military, the NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] and selected U.N. agencies.

Hundreds of thousands of Kurds had been attacked by [Iraqi leader] Saddam Hussein's troops and brutally driven into the snow-covered mountains of northern Iraq and eastern Turkey. Everything had happened so quickly and the number of refugees was so vast that it overwhelmed the humanitarian organizations that were trying to cope with it. Several thousand Kurds were dying every day. Our mission was clear: Stop the misery and the dying, and return the Kurds to their homeland in northern Iraq.

U.S. and allied military forces with the help of 11 nations worked closely with U.N. officials and NGOs like CARE. With massive air and land resupply operations and a tough deterrent posture, we did in fact stop the dying and the misery and within a few months returned all the Kurds back home. It took a marriage between military muscle and NGO know-how to do this. And it worked very, very well.

Rwanda provides another example. Hundreds of thousands of refugees, victims of tribal warfare, were dying, and once again humanitarian organizations were being overwhelmed. The U.S. armed forces were called upon to use their vast capabilities to quickly find a way to produce fresh water to stop the cholera epidemic and to establish a transportation network so that help could be brought to those thousands upon thousands in need. All told, we delivered some 15,000 tons of supplies to the crisis area. But as soon as that narrow mission had been accomplished, our forces were withdrawn.

Somalia is a more mixed example. On the humanitarian side, we did a great job and saved hundreds of thousands of Somalis. However, our armed forces and our U.N. partners got caught up in mission creep. In the end, lives were lost and public support was forfeited. Many argue that the operation in Somalia provided us a very good lesson: Keep the military mission clear and "doable," and then leave when it is done. In any case, today, the specter of Somalia hangs over our involvement in peace operations.

And that brings me finally to some random thoughts on the central issue of this symposium: rehabilitation and assisting nations after conflicts.

From my perspective, there are two equally wrong positions on this issue: The first, the head in the sand position, is that the U.S. armed forces have absolutely no role to play in rehabilitation after conflicts or complex emergencies. And the other position, the head in the clouds position, is that the U.S. armed forces should very proactively get into the business of postconflict nation building, even to the point where we develop military units for that unmilitary purpose.

To bring us to the middle ground, let me try to suggest some things that make sense concerning humanitarian assistance operations in general and rehabilitating nations after conflicts in particular.

To begin, we must remember that the armed forces out of necessity must remain focused on warfighting. Our basic purpose is to deter our enemies and if necessary, fight and win our nation's wars. Our ability to be useful in humanitarian actions flows from our capabilities to accomplish that first purpose and in turn, is limited by it. Because of our basic mission, time spent in any particular humanitarian operation must be limited to the minimum amount needed to accomplish our mission.

This is, I know, a sore point for many humanitarian organizations. However, it is clear that we must limit ourselves to the "doable," and it is equally clear that postcrisis rehabilitation is a long-term process. Moreover, rehabilitation must, in the main, be accomplished by the local people. Also, neither NGOs nor the military should get in the way of market forces, if they can help it.

The armed forces cannot afford to stay beyond the time called for by their mission. To do so inevitably invites mission creep. Staying on too long will also keep our mobile forces from being available to be employed elsewhere.

As [National Security Adviser] Tony Lake observed: "By carefully defining the mission and clearly setting a deadline, we serve notice that our only goal is to give governments and peoples the breathing room they must have to tackle their own problems. ... It is dangerous hubris to believe we can build other nations. But where our own interests are engaged, we can help nations build themselves -- and give them time to make a start."

Rather than a dysfunctional competition between the NGOs and the armed forces, our joint task must be to create a bond between the partners based on each other's unique strengths.

We have spent a lot of time in the field and in the Pentagon thinking about how we can work together and be more efficient. This has been for us almost a wave of new thinking because we had to think outside the box we have been in for 50 years. Accordingly, we now routinely hold training exercises with NGOs. We have even created new joint manuals, authoritative guidance for the services and the commands in the field, on how to work better with our new partners, the U.N. agencies and NGOs, as well as our allies and the full panoply of U.S. government actors.

I have brought with me today some copies of two such manuals. One is our "Handbook for Peace Operations" and the other is our new volume on "Military Operations Other Than War."

The essence of our joint doctrine is better coordination and information sharing among the U.N. agencies, the NGOs and the military, with each doing what they do best. Bosnia is a good example. IFOR, the 30-nation peace implementation force, has a civil-military operations center with more than 400 military personnel and thousands of U.N., NGO and local personnel coordinating their activities through it.

While IFOR's military component focuses on providing a secure environment, it is also active in helping the U.N., the OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] and the NGOs to accomplish many tasks, including rebuilding Bosnia's damaged infrastructure, organizing elections, supporting the war crimes and refugee affairs elements and helping the International Police Task Force.

All of these activities are being coordinated on a day-to-day basis in the civil-military operations center. In humanitarian assistance or peace operations, these centers where the military and the NGOs interface are so important that in missions like the one in Bosnia, they have become the centerpiece of our operations in place of the combat or the fire-support operations centers.

And that brings me to one final observation: Postconflict rehabilitation efforts must be international efforts. Going it alone for the United States means being less effective in the short run and going broke in the long run. We need to keep other states and the United Nations, even with its limitations, involved to the greatest extent possible. However, it is similarly clear that no amount of international support can lessen for America the burden of leadership nor our responsibility for our own forces, now or in the future.

My time is almost up, and I want to leave you with one final thought: Dag Hammarskjold [U.N. secretary general, 1953-1961] once said that "Peacekeeping is not a soldier's job, but only a soldier can do it."

That may have been true in his day, but today, in a larger sense, keeping the peace and helping nations after conflicts must be a partnership, a partnership of diplomats, multinational military forces, international organizations, and nongovernmental organizations.

In that regard, the partnership between the U.S. armed forces and CARE, once unique, has become a model for the future. This future, alongside the need to prepare to fight and win our nation's wars, promises the armed forces more operations on the cusp between peace and war, and more operations where humanitarian affairs and peacekeeping are not an afterthought, but the main effort. Helping people will continue to be the focus of our partnership.

Having been one of those people who benefited greatly 50 years ago from CARE's generosity, it is an honor today to be here with you to celebrate 50 years of that partnership. It is, of course, a privilege to be able to work daily to make that partnership an even more fruitful one in the years to come.

Thank you for listening and thanks to CARE for your great work.


Published for internal information use by the American Forces Information Service, a field activity of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs), Washington, D.C. Parenthetical entries are speaker/author notes; bracketed entries are editorial notes. This material is in the public domain and may be reprinted without permission. Defense Issues is available on the Internet via the World Wide Web at