The past decade has seen profound changes in the relationship between humanitarian and political action. The political determinants of humanitarian crises are now acknowledged, so too is their chronicity, and the limits of relief aid as a form of intervention are thus more fully understood. In 1994, in the refugee camps of Goma, Zaire, there was widespread manipulation of aid resources by armed groups implicated in the genocide in Rwanda. This experience highlighted a wider concern that, rather than doing good, emergency aid can fuel violence. The apparent consensus that humanitarian assistance can somehow stand outside politics gave way to calls for tighter linkage between aid and political responses to crises. While the arguments in favor of coherent, or integrated, approaches that seek to link operationally humanitarian and political responses to conflict-related emergencies appear self-evident, they frequently fail to distinguish between the different types of politics that are being applied by different international actors over time, and how these undermine the core principles that define humanitarian aid as such. They also risk mid-learning the real lessons of Goma--that those events occurred primarily as a failure of political action, not of relief aid.