Heroes Without Borders

Doctors Without Borders

Wow, a second “serious” blog post in just one week! This one’s inspired by what’s going on right now (Ukraine, of course). I’m not about to try and predict how all of this will end, but only ask that you pray for Ukraine as its people suffer in the crucible of war.

But I said “inspired by,” not “about.” It got me thinking about the geopolitical situation of the Post-Event World; those who’ve read the expanded world background in Barlow’s Guide to Superheroes know I took both a sympathetic and wary view of New Russia. I made it much more democratic and liberal than pre-Event Russia, but I also noted the potential seeds of international conflict; Ethnic Russian nationalism. “Father Lukin” is no Vladimir Putin, but . . .

And of course I hinted at that conflict in the events unfolding in Kazakhstan, which brings me to thoughts about Joyeuse Guard’s future among those events and what follows them.

I’m still plotting that out, but now’s as good a time as any to clarify what JG isn’t. They aren’t peacekeepers. I mention this due to a review that was forwarded to me. It was a mostly positive review, but the reader made one comment;

I will say I did have one complaint about the book where Astra does a talk about how it was not her position to prevent people from being driven off their lands via conquest. This is, bluntly, ridiculous because forced displacement is a war crime and defined as one of the forms of genocide. It is something that peace-keeping forces are SUPPOSED to prevent and Astra comes off as not only immoral but outright wrong here.”

In Kazakhstan, Joyeuse Guard was acting as members of Heroes Without Borders. HWB is a super-powered adjunct to Doctors Without Borders, Medecins Sans Frontieres.

About its mission MSF says;

“MSF offers assistance to people based solely on need, irrespective of race, religion, gender, or political affiliation. We give priority to those in the most serious and immediate danger. Wherever we go, we make sure that people in the communities where we’re working understand that MSF’s commitment to independence, impartiality, and neutrality means that we will provide assistance to anyone who needs it. We run radio campaigns and hold meetings with everyone from government ministers to local warlords, community elders to women’s groups.

Gaining their acceptance is key to our being able to work in difficult environments such as Afghanistan or Democratic Republic of Congo.

As a partner in that mission Heroes Without Borders operates in disaster zones around the world. In places with “political insecurity” it aids MSF by establishing safe-havens from which medicine and food can be dispensed and to which refugees can go for safety from the conflict around them. As Astra put it;

“HWB doesn’t fight wars. It has a mandate only to aid and protect civilians caught in them. We have eyes on the town—if we see an attack on civilians, we can stop it. But all Kokshetau’s Kazakh residents are here now, so there won’t be one.”

HWB capes, by their corporate charter, don’t intervene in conflicts. They aren’t military capes and they aren’t mercenaries, and although JG is now officially a “private military organization” their contract with HWB is strictly base security. Otherwise, Heroes Without Borders couldn’t function at all in situations like Kazakhstan’s; it would be seen by one side or the other as an adversarial force. Even in the midst on an ongoing genocide, HWB can’t intervene beyond protecting non-combatants they find in immediate danger and they can’t go looking for fights. (Getting word of an atrocity-in-progress and moving in to stop it is a legal grey area since they are neither military nor law enforcement, but governments tend to look the other way when this happens.)

So, what does this mean in an unfolding situation like Ukraine’s?

Well, if there’s mass breakdown of the economy and food and medicine is short, HWB can mobilize to set up distribution bases. Only non-military supplies would be distributed, and none to the combatants. If large movements of refugees are created, HWB can use its bases to house them and even bring in transportation to move them out of the combat zones. HWB capes would not engage Russian units, but could stand them off if HWB bases or convoys are threatened. Observers from both sides are invited to insure that HWB is not giving military aid to either side. (Well, this last bit really depends upon how scrupulous the sides are about observing the laws of war; HWB doesn’t invite terrorists and war-criminals over to check out their operations. Certainly neither the Russian nor Kazakh “militias” were getting a close look at Kokshetau Base.)

It really is all about maintaining political neutrality, without which they would simply find themselves another group of peacekeepers, with one side of every conflict treating them as combatants and their bases as legitimate military targets.

And Joyeuse Guard has no interest in being peacekeepers. This may mean interesting things for their future, with a widening war in Eurasia. Or not. But I really wish that life would stop imitating my art.

Pray for Ukraine. And possibly donate to Medecins Sans Frontieres; they are the worthiest of causes.



8 thoughts on “Heroes Without Borders

  1. “I will say I did have one complaint about the book where Astra does a talk about how it was not her position to prevent people from being driven off their lands via conquest. This is, bluntly, ridiculous because forced displacement is a war crime and defined as one of the forms of genocide. It is something that peace-keeping forces are SUPPOSED to prevent and Astra comes off as not only immoral but outright wrong here.”

    That reviewer “misread” the book. It was obvious to me that Joyeuse Guard wasn’t there to be “peacekeepers”.

  2. Yah, Joyeuse Guard aren’t peacekeepers; it’s closet to compare them to a SEAL Team in terms of their missions and goals. Peacekeepers are stabilizers; JG are neutralizers. With prejudice.

  3. Mind you, all the various forms of peacekeeping/Red Cross/ DWB/ HWB organizations are always going to have problems, where they kind of have to pick-and-choose WHICH laws of war, or which organizational principles, or which diplomatic requirements they actually do rigorously abide by, vs which ones are un-important enough that nobody really cares if they get followed or not.

    The laws of wars REALLY are not THAT well written, and certainly aren’t that well-enforced or well-regulated. NOBODY follows ALL of them simultaneously: nobody even agrees on what all of the laws even ARE, or what the laws-as-written actually MEAN.

    For example, from a certain point of view, forcible displacement of civilians out of a given military district for purposes of laying future claims of national sovereignty on the district in question is, in theory, some type of war crime under some types of the laws of war.

    HWB has pretty clearly laid down a marker saying that whether or not that’s a violation, it’s not THEIR Problem.

    On the other hand, from another point of view, someone COULD argue that HWB is a type of refugee camp and/or hospital, and that any properly organized military force in clear possession of the surrounding territory has the law-of-war right to take control of any such refugee camp and/or hospital, at least for certain administrative purposes, as long as they don’t actually prevent said camp/hospital from caring for civilians and the injured. HWB seems to have a pretty clear policy that they would not be happy with that occurring.

    Personally, I think HWB has drawn the line in a reasonably sane and defensible place, in terms of what they will or won’t do, but any organization stuck in the middle of such messes is always going to have to draw SOME line SOMEWHERE.

    1. A good analysis. Over the years, HWB bases have almost become de-facto “embassies” of the organization in that they are administered as sovereign territories. Once established they will defend themselves from attack and even mobilize against attackers to secure an area if the local military units don’t respect their neutrality. The only reason it didn’t happen after the attack in Joyeuse Guard is that the attackers were pretty definitively destroyed by the base’s defenders and certainly the non-powered Russian militia in the area wasn’t going to try anything after that!

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