Orbinski sets out a pseudo-thesis for the purpose of his documentary, exploring the reality of intervention versus the good intention such action represents.
"Humanitarianism, since the end of the Cold War has undergone a major transformation. And many of the basic principles and ideas that underlie humanitarian practice have been co-opted under a military-political agenda.
And we now have humanitarian wars. And if you just think about that, it’s a complete oxymoron.”
Orbinski is clearly bothered but the outcome, or lack of, in Sierra Leone and Somalia where he worked - and yet he does not regret responding to the obligation he felt to help. It is one man's struggle that can be extrapolated to examine the conflicts of humanitarian action as a whole.
At one point Orbinksi describes the system for treating patients in triage during the civil war in Sierra Leone. By numbering the arriving injured based on injury and survival likelihood, triage doctors were able to efficiently save as many lives as possible given their resources. And yet, as Orbinksi still remembers, it went against every instinct as a medical professional and a civil human to let a living human suffer to ration drugs or fluids for the sake of maximizing the success of their operation.
In the end systems like this have to exist and are indeed the most rational but at the sime time cruel and unforgiving. Triage forces us to examine who we're really helping and at what cost. If you get the opportunity, I encourage you to watch it.