May 26, 2009:
Military and corporate planners have one thing in common; an interest in tracking the stability of governments worldwide. Multinational corporations usually do business in most of the 190 nations on the planet. Often their only business in a country is selling products, or buying raw materials or components, or hiring employees. But you want to know where operating is safe, or not. For the military planner, you have to be ready to send troops into a nation that might erupt into civil war, or be hit by some large scale natural disaster. In either case, the U.S. military is the most capable intervention force (for humanitarian, or armed, action) on the planet.
Over the last few years, the United States has found that rapidly providing humanitarian aid is not only welcome in countries that need it, but something that the American military is uniquely equipped to take care of. It's not difficult to switch the payload from weapons to relief supplies and move out. This has led to all the services adopting more training programs that only involve humanitarian operations.
The U.S. Air Force has found its air dropped supplies particularly welcome in remote areas that are devastated, and difficult to reach by land routes. The army and air force even run drills, to hone their skills in rapidly mobilizing relief supplies and getting them on aircraft. The U.S. military even stockpiles relief supplies, knowing that there will always be emergencies in the future.
The army and marines have lots of training programs devoted to "civil affairs" (dealing with local civilians in a war, or disaster, zone.) Not to be outdone, the U.S. Navy has a fleet of amphibious ships that can be quickly ordered to head for disaster areas. For example, the navy's Wasp class amphibious ships displace 40,000 tons each and are basically aircraft carriers that also carry landing craft and over a thousand marines. The medical facilities on the ship can treat 600 casualties, using four main and two emergency operating rooms, plus all the other facilities you'd expect to find in a hospital.
The 40 or so helicopters that can operate off the flight deck of a Wasp class ship are a major asset during these post-disaster operations. The U.S. Navy has been enthusiastic about these disaster relief operations. The sailors and marines like to use their military skills for humanitarian operations, and the work is a form of useful training. The State Department likes these navy efforts as well, as they are very much appreciated by the victims and make the local politicians take a friendlier stance towards the United States. Thus the U.S. Navy also has adopted some training exercises for humanitarian missions.
The U.S. military trains for these humanitarian missions, but still remain prepared to go in armed if the disaster is human made, rather than natural. Both corporate and military planners have to be particularly careful with "failed states." These are nations with no government, or one that doesn't really control the entire nation. The best example of this is Somalia, followed by Sudan, Afghanistan, Colombia, and over a dozen African countries. Lebanon and, until quite recently, Sri Lanka also belonged to this category of "partially failed" states that have some good government in part of the country, and not much control at all over portions held by rebels or outlaws.
Most of the failed states are suffering from an inability to extend the rule of law over their entire national territory. While Westerners take such rule of law for granted, it's unknown, or only recently experienced, in many parts of the world. In these areas, tribal custom or feudal warlords provide the only protection. The failed states are usually nations where all the factions in it have never reached an agreement over who shall have what in the national government.
While the United Nations currently recognizes 192 nations on the planet, two centuries ago, there were over a thousand entities that considered themselves sovereign, and were willing, and able, to kill to defend their independence. Over the last few thousand years, the history of the world has been all about those many smaller states, tribes and informal (but often heavily armed) organizations being merged (by force or negotiation), into larger entities. That process has not been completed, and there are several hundred of these uncooperative groups that still have to be persuaded to merge with a larger neighbor. Many of these groups are currently part of an existing nation, and don't want to be. Put another way, most of the wars currently underway, are over this merger business, and resistance to it.
Thus it is simply a matter of prudence to keep an eye on the trouble spots, whether you sell consumer goods to those areas, or are likely to be called in to halt international terrorists, or gangsters, from setting up bases in a new nowhere land.