War Games: the Story of Aid and War in Modern Times

April 17, 2010 edition of the Financial Times published a review of Linda Polman’s book: War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern Times, which discusses contemporary and historical developments of humanitarian aid.

Aid and Abet: Do Humanitarian Agencies Inadvertantly Prolong Conflict?

Hugh Carnegy

Financial Times, April 17, Life & Arts p. 16

War Games: the Story of Aid and War in Modern Times

Linda Polman

Viking, 2010


Excerpts from the Financial Times book review

Polman traces the genesis of today’s aid culture to the mid-19th Century, two contemporary humanitarians, the Swiss Henri Dunant and the Briton Florence Nightingale, were prompted by the horrors of war to take action. But they had very different outlooks.

Nightingale was determined that governments and executive authorities responsible for conflicts should be forced into taking responsibility for the consequences – they should not be allowed to duck those responsibilities because voluntary organizations were prepared to step in to offer care and succour to victims of war.

Dunant, by contrast, lobbied for international volunteer organizations to help – without conditions wounded soldiers (in those days, the victims of war were overwhelmingly combatants, not civilians. In 1863 he founded the ICRC to offer aid based on principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence. Nightingale dismissed it as “absurd.” But it is those founding principles of the ICRC that have come to dominate the world’s aid industry.

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