This term describes a number of functions military units may perform that are not strictly related to waging a war declared by the United States Congress. Generally, military operations other than war (OOTW) fall into three categories1:

One of the first OOTW known as such occurred after the Gulf War. In the spring of 1991, a defeated Iraq began its campaign to quash a Kurdish revolt. Iraqi forces displaced some million Kurdish civilians from their homes using napalm and chemical weapons. A detachment of U.S. Marines aided civilian relief organizations in providing humanitarian aid and armed security for the Kurdish refugees. Though the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) shouldering the bulk of the relief effort were not accustomed to working with armed American Marines, Operation Provide Comfort was the impetus for future OOTWs where American military forces worked together with civilian humanitarian organizations.

Other recent OOTWs include Operation Restore Hope in Somalia (1992), Operation Uphold Democracy in Haiti (1994), Operation Silver Wake in Albania (1997), and Operation Full Accounting in Thailand (1995 to present). With the need for American military forces increasing worldwide, some argue that the U.S. will not be ready to engage in a major regional conflict should one arise. Others argue that the U.S. may be getting itself needlessly entangled in business that does not concern it. Whether or not those two arguments are accurate, the humanitarian aid provided by U.S. military forces in OOTWs has been indispensible to those whose lives have been saved and homes restored as a result.


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