Filled with tough criticism of Western governments’ interventionist foreign policies and challenging questions for...

THE THIN BLUE LINE

HOW HUMANITARIANISM WENT TO WAR

Aid worker Foley takes a critical look at the changing role of humanitarianism.

Based on his online articles for The Guardian online edition, this text charges that political humanitarianism has become a multibillion-dollar industry that significantly influences foreign-policy decisions in Europe and the United States. “Political humanitarianism” is Foley’s term for the blend of the politically activist human-rights movement and traditionally neutral humanitarian organizations providing relief assistance during conflicts and natural disasters. Since the 1990s, he asserts, political humanitarianism has increasingly pushed for military intervention on the grounds that the international community has a right, even a duty, to protect people. He cites interventions in the Balkans, East Timor, Haiti and Africa as raising questions about the conflicting claims of human rights, national sovereignty and international law. There is no basis in international law, he writes, for invading a country in order to democratize it; the interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq cannot be classified as humanitarian. Drawing on his experiences in numerous areas of conflict, he concludes that humanitarian goods and services are too often employed to further political and military objectives. On assignment in Kosovo, he witnessed the international administration’s failures there. More recently in Afghanistan, he observed aid being poured not into areas with the most need, but into those where it was most likely to weaken the power of warlords and buy the local population’s allegiance. He points out that the integration of humanitarian assistance and military intervention poses serious challenges to aid workers and has inevitably led to a steady increase in the number of attacks on them. Foley calls for a return to the traditional principles of humanitarian aid work—independence, impartiality and neutrality—as well as a more pragmatic approach to the issue of intervention and recognition of the limitations of humanitarian aid’s ability to address the problem of inequalities of wealth and power.

Filled with tough criticism of Western governments’ interventionist foreign policies and challenging questions for supporters of humanitarian aid.

Pub Date: Nov. 20, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-84467-289-9

Page Count: 266

Publisher: Verso

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2008

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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