Unlike the other reviewer, I got more enjoyment from Rory Stewart's essay. I suppose he can come over as patronising, but then his experience is rather extraordinary. He was brought up in the Far East, his father being a World War II vet still on active service. Rory himself had a brief military career before a period of work for the Foreign Office, notably being governor of an Iraqi province in 2003. He also famously walked alone across many Asian countries including Afghanistan in 2002 (during winter), and has spent several years with the wise guys at Harvard. He is now a Tory MP.
His essay is basically about the experience in Afghanistan, arguing that the devil is in the detail and he paints a frightening picture of how the US dominated mission have a standardised view of how to `fix' any country, the local details being more or less insignificant. Their health and safety procedures are so all-pervasive that most visitors and even some people who work in Afghanistan never leave the bases.
Stewart contrasts this with the way things were done in the nineteenth century, but it was actually only in the nineteen eighties - when so much changed - that the CIA started to dismantle their network of old-fashioned `spies' and started worrying about political correctness instead.
The other essay I found less interesting and actually difficult to penetrate, but it left me thinking that the fundamental difference between say the intervention in Bosnia, which Stewart and Knaus support, and the one in Afghanistan which they don't, comes down to the character of the chief instigator and the underlying intention.
Whether we like it or not most politicians are careerists, and they follow their leader. A new leader with a new philosophy therefore automatically creates a climate change.
The intervention in Bosnia was a peace-keeping mission, not an exercise in empire building, which in truth was what was going on in Iraq and fundamentally in Afghanistan. The words are one thing, and in Clinton's case there was some relationship between the words and the truth. This did not apply to Iraq and Afghanistan where the intention if not the propaganda was to impose the will of the USA on Asia for the foreseeable future.
The change in philosophy explains a lot of the mistakes which were made.
This is a thought provoking book, which as the other reviewer says may not be read by many people. Most people seem to think either that all interventions are bad or that all interventions are good.