Why military muscle doesn’t make better humanitarian security

An ex-army man explains how, despite assumptions that one informs the other, a military background and NGO security clash

When I say I work in humanitarian security the response is often, “Oh, how interesting. Were you in the military then?” At this point I bristle slightly. I have to say that yes, I was, a very long time ago, in the military. And I always go on to add that contrary to easy-to-make assumptions, my military background does not have much of a bearing on what I do now. Sure, it is useful to have some of that knowledge and experience, but it can easily become an “overdone strength” if you don’t “get it” about humanitarian security.

Humanitarians are often in the same contextual space as the military, and are often uncomfortable with them. We are values-led, we believe in fairness, opportunity, honesty, respect for life and protecting the vulnerable. But which “we” am I using here? Am I speaking as an ex-military person, or as a humanitarian? The thing is that both groups are likely to identify with many of the same values.

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