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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)
Price: 15.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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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: 236 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (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: 62,057 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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11 of 12 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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a passionate critique 30 July 2012
By johnh
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 authors' experience and passion comes through clearly. I find their analysis of the short sightedness and futility of much international intervention very persuasive, but also share their conviction that in certain circumstances one must try. If you are a tax payer funding international intervention, or a practitioner trying to do good in tricky places, its well worth reading and reflecting on this short book.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read for all FCO Types 17 Oct 2011
I came to read this book with the advantage of having served in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan with the British Army. Much of what has been written by Stewart and Gnaus chimed with my recollection of what happened in all those countries. The book is split into two essays that complement each other. Stewart answering the title of the book through the Afghan lens or 'intervention under fire' as he puts it and Gnaus through the Bosnia example. Both make clear recommendations and provide guidance on what has worked historically. Stewart's essay is somewhat highbrow, almost condescending in tone but his message is clear and damning to politicians, military leaders and the FCO alike. His essay is a passionate plea for the reintroduction of FCO country specialists similar to the Political Officers during the Great Game. His opinion of the British military hierarchy makes one wonder whether they are taught anything on the Higher Commanders' and Staff Course. Gnaus writes an altogether more readable essay that fundamentally argues that interventions can work but only under very specific circumstances, neither of which we can see in Iraq or Afghanistan. Should military, Development and Foreign Office experts read this? Absolutely. Will they? Doubtful. This is a must read for all serious people involved in intervention activities and should be read alongside Sir Hilary Synnott's 'Bad Days in Basra' and Richard North's 'Ministry of Defeat'. These are all powerful critiques of a recent foreign policy that one could suggest is just as poorly refined as the introduction of Snatch Landrovers to Iraq. Gripping, thought provoking and sometimes embarrassing, this is an excellent way for Amnesty International to start its new series of essays.
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