Humanitarianism as a Weapons System

7 Pages Posted: 23 Jul 2018

See all articles by David Luban

David Luban

Georgetown University Law Center

Date Written: 2018


One important theme in Rosa Brooks’s How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything is that in Iraq and Afghanistan the United States has increasingly given the military reconstruction tasks that seem more like civilian jobs. This is part of the pivot to a “hearts-and-minds” counter-insurgency strategy; but in larger part it reflects our great trust in our military and diminishing trust in civilian government. The result is a vicious circle: As resources shift from civilian agencies to the military doing similar jobs, the civilian agencies become less effective, which seems to vindicate the judgment that the military can do it better. In this reflection, I suggest that alongside the vicious circle that concerns Brooks, another problem with using the military for civilian tasks is that the moment strategy changes away from “hearts and minds,” the military will abandon the civilian jobs. Thus, the moral character of the work is different. I use Phil Klay’s reality-based short story “Money as a Weapons System” and the career of T. E. Lawrence to illustrate the point.

Suggested Citation

Luban, David, Humanitarianism as a Weapons System (2018). Temple International & Comparative Law Journal, Vol. 32, No. 1, 2018. Available at SSRN:

David Luban (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States

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