This gripping and important book brings alive over two hundred years of humanitarian interventions. Freedom’s Battle illuminates the passionate debates between conscience and imperialism ignited by the first human rights activists in the 19th century, and shows how a newly emergent free press galvanized British, American, and French citizens to action by exposing them to distant atrocities. Wildly romantic and full of bizarre enthusiasms, these activists were pioneers of a new political consciousness. And their legacy has much to teach us about today’s human rights crises.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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|Title of History eBook: Freedom's Battle|
|Release Date: 08-19-2008|
|Allowed Countries (hover)|
|Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group|
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Humanitarianism or Imperialism?
"Powers Will Be Powers"
Mass murderers have a well-worn argument to defend themselves against outside intervention: that sending troops would be an act of imperialism, not of altruism. Sudan's dictatorial president, Omar al-Bashir, once bluntly rejected United Nations peacekeepers in Darfur: "We will not accept colonial forces coming into the country." He could have been echoing Aleksandr Lukashenko, the Belarusian despot, who told the UN General Assembly: "If there are no pretexts for intervention, imaginary ones are created. To this end a very convenient banner was chosen-democracy and human rights." Even Vladimir Putin, facing international criticism for smothering Russian democracy, retorted that this reminded him of how a century ago "colonial powers . . . cited arguments such as playing a civilizing role, the particular role of the white man, the need to civilize 'primitive peoples.'"1
Bashir and Lukashenko may be pretty quickly written off as self-serving. But there is a serious intellectual tradition here. The most influential thinkers about international politics, at least in Britain and the United States since the shattering experience of World War II, are also the most gloomy. These realists see international politics as an amoral and savage struggle for survival and conquest. Sovereign states in the brawl of international anarchy must rely on their own strength to ensure their security. This leaves scant room for moral action. In his Nuremberg cell, Hermann Goring declared, "When it is the question of the interests of the nation!?-Phooey! Then morality stops!