In the Shadow of Just Wars: Violence, Politics, and Humanitarian Action / Edition 1

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During the planning stages of military intervention in Iraq, humanitarian organizations were offered U.S. government funds to join the Coalition and operate under the umbrella of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Nongovernmental organizations had previously been asked to join in "just wars" in Kosovo, East Timor, Sierra Leone, and Afghanistan, wars initiated by Western powers against oppressive regimes or armed groups. Many aid organizations cooperated eagerly.Few Afghans regret the eclipse of the Taliban, or Sierra Leoneans the stabilization of their country after British military intervention in 2000. However, the incidental victims of these triumphs, those on the "wrong" side, are soon forgotten. Humanitarian organizations are duty-bound to save these people, although in so doing they must remain independent of the warring parties and not support the "struggle against evil" or any other political agenda. Then there are places where the pretense of providing assistance allows donor governments to disguise their support for local political powers. Millions in North Korea, Angola, and Sudan have starved to death because of the diversion and unequal distribution of huge quantities of food aid. There are also those whose sacrifice is politically irrelevant in the wider picture of international relations—the victims of brutal wars in Algeria, Chechnya, and Liberia, for instance, where what little international aid is available is subsumed by the adversaries' desire to wage total war, to exterminate entire populations.In this book, international experts and members of Médecins Sans Frontières analyze the way these issues have crystallized over the five years spanning the end of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first. They make the case for a renewed commitment to an old ideal: a humanitarianism that defies a politics of expendable lives.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The role of humanitarian organizations in the world's troubled and violent regions has never been so vital, or so debated. Over the course of this collection's 17 essays (written by scholars, journalists and humanitarian relief workers), 11 of the world's greatest humanitarian crises of the past five years are scrutinized for their successes and failures. . . .With a clear, and often critical eye, the essays in this collection not only expose the shortcomings of the various humanitarian organizations, particularly the U.N., but also succeed in illuminating the complex moral and political debate that surrounds even the most basic relief operations. By focusing on the particular details of each intervention, the essays in this book succeed in going beyond the conventional stereotypes and myths of rebel atrocities and hapless governments. As such, they are an excellent resource for scholars and professionals in the field."—Publishers Weekly, April 2004

"The new collection of essays brought out by Médecins sans Frontiéres is very welcome. By reasserting the distinction between the humanitarian idea proper and the humanitarian motives or pretensions of political leaders, the MSF writers are able to move the arguments back to where they ought to be taking place. In essence, they are saying that there are two quite different sets of arguments. One is about foreign policy, and this should take place in the knowledge that even worthy foreign policy is not in the first place humanitarian."—The Guardian, April 2, 2004

"To what extent has the proliferation of so-called 'just' wars and the recent enthusiasm for ethical and humanitarian values benefited populations exposed to mass violence? There is no quick answer to that question, but a survey of recent conflicts, including Afghanistan, East Timor, Colombia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Algeria, suggests mixed results. The contributors to Just Wars (Cornell University Press) propose that in a number of these cases, humanitarian actors, mindful of donor money, access to target populations, or politics, forget their duties to those on the 'wrong' side in such conflicts."—The Village Voice, April 20, 2004

"With insightful case studies of conflicts ranging from East Timor and Afghanistan to Sudan and Colombia, and thoughtful considerations of issues such as the responsibility of humanitarian aid workers in war crimes trials and the growing tension between Islamic, Christian and secular humanitarian NGO's, In the Shadow of 'Just Wars' is a significant and sobering work that should be engaged by humanitarians, politicians, and responsible global citizens alike."—Patrick LaRochelle, Virginia Quarterly Review, vol. 81, no. 1, Winter 2005

Library Journal
Medecins sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999 for its medical relief work. These essays, by MSF participants and by regional specialists, offer an overview of 13 conflicts in which the organization has provided relief. Each chapter provides background on the conflict, approximate numbers of refugees or internally displaced persons needing care, and attempts to provide relief. Four theoretical essays attempt to provide a framework for the others. Most of the authors are strongly critical of UN humanitarian relief efforts, because the UN staff often casually accepts the word of local authorities that relief is truly reaching the needy claims that medical works, often MSF teams, tend to doubt. Unfortunately, this collection as a whole is disappointing; none of the contributors really addresses questions of "just war." Readers who want a nuanced discussion of humanitarian issues should try David Kennedy's recent The Dark Sides of Virtue; a similar collection of essay on medical relief is Humanitarian Crises: the Medical and Public Health Response. Only for specialized collections. Marcia L. Sprules, Council on Foreign Relations Lib., New York Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801489112
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 400
  • Product dimensions: 5.54 (w) x 8.54 (h) x 0.55 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction : the sacrificial international order and humanitarian action 1
1 East Timor : better late than never 25
2 Sierra Leone : peace at any price 43
3 Afghanistan : from 'militant monks' to crusaders 66
4 North Korea : feeding totalitarianism 88
5 Angola : woe to the vanquished 109
6 Sudan : who benefits from humanitarian aid? 137
7 Liberia : orchestrated chaos 162
8 Chechnya : eradication of the enemy within 183
9 Democratic Republic of Congo : victims of no importance 209
10 Colombia : violence versus politics 228
11 Algeria : the utility of terrorism 247
12 Iraq : in search of a 'humanitarian crisis' 269
13 Kosovo : the end of an era? 286
14 Humanitarian spaces : spaces of exception 297
15 Justice and humanitarian action : a conflict of interest 314
16 The modern missionaries of Islam 325
17 Of medicines and men 341
The contributors 357
Index 361
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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2004

    Lessons Yet to Be Learned

    The essays assembled in this volume contain many lessons that, in the wake of failed states and cycles of conflict and violence, have yet to be learned by policymakers in both government and the NGO sector. The reflections on recent African conflicts are particularly good.

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