A survey of simmering hatreds and ethnic slaughter in places like Kosovo and Rwanda, and of the failure of the so-called civilized world to contain them.
The events of September 11, several of these 13 contributors to this well-intended volume suggest, have brought those remote barbarisms ever closer to home; one result, observes Samantha Power, may be a change in national policy, but also in national attitude such that “Americans inside and outside government [are] more capable of imagining evil committed against innocent civilians.” That evil, of course, is no stranger to the residents of Kabul, Sarajevo, Dila, or Bujumbura, where unspeakable crimes against humanity have recently been committed—and where many of the contributors here, assembled by Dissent editor Mills (The Triumph of Meanness, 1997) and freelance journalist Brunner, traveled in search of the truth, or at least a good story. The danger of such parachute journalism, Mills acknowledges in his introduction, is that “the atrocities that occurred . . . in the last decade can, if a writer is not careful, be turned into nothing more than serious-sounding entertainment.” There’s precious little entertainment here, but much soul-searching and righteous anger. Michael Walzer, for example, scourges the Clinton administration and the European powers for their failure to put ground troops in Kosovo, arguing that their presence would have made the appalling bombing of Serbia unnecessary; William Shawcross writes sardonically of the West’s inaction when confronted with the inescapable fact of genocide in Cambodia, suggesting that because of it “no judicial accounting of the Khmer Rouge period will take place”; David Rieff mourns the destruction of Bosnia, “our generation’s Spanish Civil War.” While there’s a certain amount of Monday-morning quarterbacking, sound policy recommendations also arise from time to time, all in the hope of encouraging an active internationalist peacekeeping effort so that such horrors do not occur again. As they almost certainly will.
An illuminating collection for students of war-reporting, advocacy journalism, and international affairs.