Freedom's Battle: The Origins of Humanitarian Intervention
By Gary J. Bass Knopf; 509 pages
It shouldn't be necessary to say this, but it probably is: Humanitarian intervention was not invented in the 1970s by Jimmy Carter. In fact, it was all the rage in the 19th century. European powers intervened on behalf of the Greeks against the Ottoman Empire (the poet Lord Byron died while taking part in that particular adventure); they sent troops to Beirut to aid Syrian Christians against the Druze; they helped the Bulgarians against the Ottomans (again)--and on and on. In Freedom's Battle, Bass tells the strange, bloody tales of these now nearly forgotten campaigns with extraordinary verve and wit, especially for a Princeton political-science wonk. But the book's real payoff is what it brings to our understanding of contemporary conflicts that have been justified on humanitarian grounds, from Somalia to Kosovo to Iraq: context. "All of the major themes of today's heated debates about humanitarian intervention ... were voiced loud and clear throughout the nineteenth century," Bass writes. "They knew things then that we have forgotten now."
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