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The Conceit of Humanitarian Intervention (Oxford University Press), by Rajan Menon

Sep. 27, 2016
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Rajan Menon is a pessimist when it comes to intervening to prevent genocides, thwart civil wars and relieve oppression—and he argues from such recent fiascos as Iraq and Libya as well as the failure to intervene in Rwanda and Sudan. As the book’s title suggests, Menon’s tightly focused essay critiques the ignorance of recent American foreign policy, the hubris of ideologues and the naiveté of many peace activists. A senior research scholar at Columbia University’s Institute of War and Peace Studies, Menon reminds us that governments usually act on national interest, not humanitarian values, and that the public in Western democracies has shown little appetite for the cost (in lives and money) of boots-on-the-ground intervention (hence: drone warfare). Menon’s solution: He doesn’t really have one, but counsels world leaders to proceed with caution, lest they stir up bigger problems than the ones they seek to solve. 


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