In many cases, what arms could not accomplish was achieved through “food aid,” provided by the United States, the United Nations and various NGOs to the refugees and the victims of the famines that the wars had produced. Often delivered to both sides of the conflict (as in the Sudan, Ethiopia, and Angola), food aid has become a major component of the contemporary neocolonial war-machine, and the war-economy generated by it. First, it has entitled international organizations other than the Red Cross to claim the right to intervene in areas of conflict in the name of providing relief (in 1988 the United Nations passed a resolution assert- ing the right of donors to deliver aid).17 It is on this basis that the U.S./ UN military intervention in Somalia in 1992–1993 (“Operation Restore Hope”) was justified.
But even when it is not accompanied by troops, the delivery of “food aid” in conflict situations is always a form of political and military intervention, as it prolongs the war by feeding the contending armies (often more than the civilian population), it shapes military strategy, and helps the stronger party—the one best equipped to take advantage of food distributions—to win.18 This is exactly what took place in the Sudan and Ethiopia in the 1980s, where, by providing “food aid,” the United States, the United Nations and NGOs like CARE became major protagonists in the wars fought in these countries.19
In addition, food aid contributes to the displacement and the relocation of rural communities, by setting up feeding centers organized around the needs of the NGOs; it also undermines local agriculture by causing the prices of locally marketed produce to collapse; and it introduces a new source of warfare, for the prospect of appropriating large food supplies and selling them locally or on the international market provides a new motive for conflict, creating a war-economy especially in countries that have been radically impoverished.20
So questionable has food assistance been in its effects, so dubious its ability to guarantee people’s livelihood (which would have been better served by the distribution of agricultural tools and seeds, and above all by the end of hostilities), that one has to ask whether the true purpose of this initiative was not the phasing out of subsistence farming, and the creation of a long-term dependence on imported food—both being center-pieces of World Bank reform, and conditions for the “integration” of African countries into the global economy.
Silvia Federici, « War, Globalization and Reproduction » (2000) in Revolution at point Zero : Housework Reproduction and Feminist Struggle, p. 80