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In the Shadow of "Just Wars": Violence, Politics, and Humanitarian Action Paperback – April 1, 2004

ISBN-13: 978-0801489112 ISBN-10: 0801489113 Edition: 1st

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In the Shadow of "Just Wars": Violence, Politics, and Humanitarian Action + Medical Innovations in Humanitarian Situations: The Work of Médecins Sans Frontières
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press; 1 edition (April 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801489113
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801489112
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,988,266 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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. From the moderately successful U.N. intervention in East Timor, to the U.N.’s absence in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo, humanitarian action has often failed to live up to its exalted ideals, suggests this volume. 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. Saving lives is the ultimate purpose of any humanitarian action, and yet, according to the authors, that seemingly simple purpose is inevitably shrouded in a host of complicating, and often conflicting, values. The humanitarian ideal "is peaceful by nature but not pacifist," and therefore must inevitably contend with the specter of violence that comes with every relief operation. 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.
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Review

"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

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Connor on May 29, 2005
Format: Paperback
This collection of essays brought together by Medecins Sans Frontieres intends to help readers explore the current state of international "humanitarian" aid in the wake of the "just wars" that were fought on humanitarian pretexts in the Balkans last decade.

Contrary to what government officials prefer to brag, most humanitarian aid is not humanitarian at all, but is an extension of politics. This work expounds on that theme, implying that the "just wars" of the last decade were the demise of truly independent and humanitarian work. In keeping with this theme, the essays in this book, with the exception of one or two, delve into the politics of a complex emergency and explore how the international community has failed to live up to the humanitarian ideal -- either by abstaining from involvement or manipulating aid.

There is particular focus on Africa, since the cases were chosen by ranking complex emergencies according to their cost in human lives, and focusing on the most serious. This annoyed me to an extent because the essays on the African conflicts tend to give tremendous amounts of information in only small amounts of space. By the time the reader covers three or four of the African conflicts, he cannot help but jumble and confuse the names of the main players and the acronyms of the liberation armies.

Also, several different authors all seem to use the same words and have the same style of writing. At first I suspected some sort of conspiracy on the part of MSF, but then I realized that most of the essays were probably written in foreign languages then later translated by Fabrice Weissman into English. The result is that I began to tire of the book's style and diction halfway through.
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