An Afghan girl carries a pail of water fashioned from a U.S. government aid agency can while crossing a busy street in Kabul, Afghanistan, September 26, 2002 (Romeo Ranoco/Courtesy Reuters).
After a two-week hiatus, Charles Landow offers an expanded selection of articles and other materials in this Labor Day version of Missing Pieces. I hope you enjoy the reading and the long weekend. Please let us know what you think, and visit the blog often as CFR begins its new programming year after the holiday. Enjoy!
The Humanitarian Impulse: As the United States and its allies begin to draw down from Afghanistan, Rory Stewart and Gerald Knaus have published a book on a question that is far easier to ask than to answer: Can Intervention Work? Stewart, a British member of parliament famous for his walk across Afghanistan after the U.S. invasion, and Knaus, the chairman of the European Stability Initiative, take a bulldozer to the theoretical underpinnings of humanitarian intervention–the idea that the international community can save lives and transform societies if only it applies the proper resources and plans. The authors criticize Western nation-builders for an inflated sense of their own power and an inadequate appreciation of local actors, and they paint a devastating portrait of Westerners’ isolation and ignorance in Afghanistan. The book does not eschew intervention but recommends a modest approach. Intervention, Stewart and Knaus write, “should aim to provide protection and relief at a specific time and place,” not to remake entire societies. It is a sound premise, though not exactly a revelation after the experiences of recent years. CFR’s Stewart Patrick tackles the related question of when to intervene in a recent ForeignAffairs.com article. He considers the Libya intervention a success for the Responsibility to Protect doctrine, but cautions that the United States and its allies will not–and should not–apply the doctrine universally in the future.
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