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Can Intervention Work?: Amnesty International Global Ethics Series [Hardcover]

Rory Stewart , Gerald Knaus
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

6 Sep 2011 Amnesty International Global Ethics
Rory Stewart and Gerald Knaus distil their remarkable firsthand experiences of political and military interventions into a potent examination of what we can and cannot achieve in a new era of "nation building". As they delve into the massive, military-driven efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans, the expansion of the EU, and the bloodless "colour" revolutions in the former Soviet states, the authors reveal each effort's enormous consequences for international relations, human rights and our understanding of state-building. Stewart and Knaus carefully parse the philosophies that have informed interventionism-from neoconservative to liberal imperialist-and draw on their diverse experiences in the military, non-governmental organisations and the Iraqi provincial government to reveal what we can ultimately expect from large-scale interventions and how they might best realise positive change in the world.

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Can Intervention Work?: Amnesty International Global Ethics Series + The Places In Between + Occupational Hazards: My Time Governing in Iraq
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; First Edition edition (6 Sep 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393081206
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393081206
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14.9 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 331,498 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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I devoured this brilliant Burkean tract at a sitting. Is it too much to hope that it will be read not just in Downing Street and the Foreign Office, but also the State Department and the White House? --Peter Oborne, The Telegraph

About the Author

Rory Stewart is a Member of Parliament and the best-selling author of The Prince of the Marshes and The Places In Between. Gerald Knaus, founding chairman of the European Stability Initiative, is a Carr Center Fellow at Harvard University's Kennedy School.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It seems that most of the time it doesn't 29 Jan 2012
I think it is fair to use that statement as my headline. One of the authors quotes David Edelstein who found that out of 26 military occupations since 1815 only seven succeeded. That's one hell of a record. If you read this book you will understand why intervention is such an unsuccessful venture.

The first essay by Rory Stewart focuses on Afghanistan with bits and pieces of Iraq thrown in. Having read the 89 pages I found myself rather disillusioned because one is left with the impression that the intervention in Afghanistan is and was a complete waste of time, money and above all people from beginning to end (if an end is indeed in sight). ISAF ought to be wondering more about `why are we here' because they seem to be treading water virtually since Day 1.
The civilian administrators are no doubt fair-minded and high-minded in the pursuit of their projects, the implementation of which is rather incomplete, or maybe non-existent is a better word. Also, none of them appear to be concerned about the actual needs of the Afghan people and the essay gives the impression that they are not eager to find out what these may be.
I think it is fair to say that Afghanistan would be better off without these `interventionists'.

The second essay by Gerald Knaus deals with the Balkan wars and with the intervention by NATO and the European Union (EU). I found this a bit harder reading than the first essay because I thought it was inconclusive. On one hand, the author shows how successful the intervention in the Balkans turned out, but on the other hand I also felt that future success depends on the `foreign administration' to continue indefinitely.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not All Interventions Are the Same 31 Oct 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
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.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The perils of good intentions 13 Mar 2014
By Antenna TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Focusing on Afghanistan since 2001, Rory Stewart identifies reasons for the failure of intervention to achieve a "sustainable solution". Goals have been unclear, obscured by buzzwords and western-style "management speak". Leaders sent in to sort out the problems have stayed for only short periods, with foreign specialists remaining ignorant of the local culture since they rarely set foot outside protected compounds for security reasons. So, each successive surge of ever larger numbers of troops, with additional resources and revised policies, has failed to stabilise the situation.

Little heed was taken of McNamara's "lessons" from Vietnam, notably that "there may be no immediate solutions. We failed to recognise the limitations of modern high-technology military equipment, forces and doctrine...We viewed people and leaders of South Vietnam in terms of our own experiences. We do not have a God-given right to shape every nation in our own image or as we choose. We exaggerated the dangers to the United States".

In contrast to Stewart's somewhat rambling, anecdotal contribution which often seems overly concerned to display his literary style, Gerald Knaus produces a systematic, coherent and very informative analysis of the relatively successful restoration of peace in Bosnia from the late 1990s, although recent events may have undermined this. Triggered, some say too late, by shame over inaction in the face of genocide in Rwanda and Srebinica, intervention in Bosnia largely took the form of targeted bombing and training to support Croatian and Bosnian soldiers against the Serbs.

Knaus examines four interpretations of intervention in the Balkans.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The book I wanted to write
Incredible insight, incredibly apt and totally accurate. Real world experience from the ground in Afghanistan; its amazing how shortsighted some of our leaders have been. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Ja Sheffer
4.0 out of 5 stars A good concise read by two authors who have been there and done it
A refreshing and candid comparison of chapter 7 interventions and attempts at stabilisation and post conflict reconstrcuction and why they go wrong .. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Peter Appleby
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone should read this
This book should be required reading for anyone who is interested in international affairs or foreign policy. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Ruairidh
4.0 out of 5 stars a passionate critique
A very passionate critique of the "international community" written by two people who know. One of the two articles is sharply personal, the second more cooly analytical, but the... Read more
Published on 30 July 2012 by johnh
3.0 out of 5 stars Can Intervention Work?
A Curate's Egg! The essay by Rory Stewart is eminently readable and a most interesting expose of the reasons why the intervention in Afghanistan has been such a long drawn out... Read more
Published on 5 Nov 2011 by Mr. N. C. Read
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read for all FCO Types
I came to read this book with the advantage of having served in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan with the British Army. Read more
Published on 17 Oct 2011 by Mr. Ewan A. Cameron
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