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Freedom's Battle: The Origins of Humanitarian Intervention Paperback – October 13, 2009

4.1 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Bass, associate professor of international affairs at Princeton (Stay the Hand of Vengeance: The Politics of War Crimes Tribunals), makes the case with delightful wit, insight and scholarship that humanitarian military intervention arose not with genocide in Bosnia or Rwanda, but in Victorian times in parallel with democracy and the mass media. When Greeks rebelled against the Ottoman Empire, Turkish troops committed atrocities viewed by reporters and letter writers whose accounts produced a torrent of outrage. Reluctantly, British leaders began pressuring the sultan, but the failure of this effort led to Britain's great naval victory at Navarino that assured Greek independence. Bass moves on to two other half-forgotten but ghastly crises: the 1860s Syrian upheaval in which Maronite Christians and Druze slaughtered each other, and the 1870s mass murders of Bulgarians by the Ottomans. Bass ends with the Armenian genocide during WWI. Readers may squirm at the slowness with which nations acted to oppose gruesome cruelties, but they will relish Bass's gripping account of bloodthirsty characters, bitter political infighting and cynical leaders, forced by public opinion into moral actions that did not serve their own national interest. (Aug. 20) ""
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From The New Yorker

This engaging history of nineteenth-century campaigns to stop atrocities in Greece, Syria, and Bulgaria is a corrective to the idea that humanitarian interventions are a product of the �dreamy interlude� between 1989 and 9/11. The compelling narrative, rich with accounts of parliamentary debate and battlefield confrontation, presents a world of familiar political and military concerns, from the pressure of non-stop media coverage to the importance of a clear exit strategy. Bass�s thesis that humanitarianism long preceded the crises of Bosnia and Rwanda is persuasive, but this history seems a less useful guide for future efforts than he supposes. Resulting policy recommendations add little to liberal internationalist orthodoxy, and the new ideas he suggests, such as dividing the world into spheres of influence, seem ill-suited to conflicts such as those in Zimbabwe and Darfur.
Copyright ©2008 Click here to subscribe to The New Yorker --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (October 13, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307279871
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307279873
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #917,956 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Izaak VanGaalen on October 5, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Humanitarian intervention was a term often heard during the 1990s. In the decade following the end of the Cold War military intervention in sovereign states to prevent ethnic cleansing and other kinds of mass murder came at a lower price. Liberal internationalists could excercise their collective conscience more freely as the Soviet Union was disintegrating. American and Nato intervention in Bosnia (1995) came late as a massacre was already underway. The intervention in Kosovo (1999) was timely, for an ethnic cleansing had surely been averted. (Another good book on this subject is Samantha Power's A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide (P.S.).) The interventions were possible because there was no great power willing or able to stop them. There was a convergence of realism and idealism. It was not only morally imperative but practical to reduce the suffering of others.

Gary Bass, a professor at Princeton, has given us a very thoroughly researched and elegantly written history of humanitarianism that goes back to the early 19th century. In the 1820s Byron and other philhellenes agitated for Greek independence from the Ottoman yoke. Arch-realists such as Metternich and Disraeli were afraid it would upset the balance of power in Europe. The Ottoman Empire, in their view, was keeping order among many restless nationalities in the East.

There was another movement for intervention against the Turks in the 1870s. This time it was led by British Prime Minister Gladstone who campaigned to save the Bulgarian Christians from Turkish atrocities. (In fact Tony Blair invoked Gladstone before the invasion of Iraq.
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I bought this book because my professor required it for the semester. The reading is not as bad as I thought. Each chapter is about ten to twenty pages long but it's easy to read and understand. I'm enjoying the book so far.
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Format: Paperback
of a controversial concept. I do not believe author Gary Bass has really demonstrated the justice of his position, that great powers can be trusted to balance might with right as long as they are "democratic" and defending liberal values. But he's taken a long, sometimes probing and even entertaining, route in the attempt. As one reviewer offered, Bass has cherry-picked his cases to bolster his point, while slighting others where this rationale was not offered. This reflects the nature of great power politics itself: to pick and choose one's battles where one has the advantage, morally and military.

Thus in offering his historical parallels as role models for the present he shoots his case in the foot. The US did not intervene in Central America in the 1980s to stop mass-murder regimes, but bolstered and even created them. What if the USSR and Cuba had decided they must intervene in El Salvador to stop the slaughter in the name of "socialist humanism?" There would have been WW III, of course, with Washington firmly defending the Salvadoran government's national sovereignty no matter how many of its own people it killed. No outside intervention allowed in one's own backyard, irregardless how gross the reason or "necessary" the situation.

Just as the imperial facade and double standards of such interventions are easily exposed, the entire ideology of liberal interventionism takes its own self-serving intellectual paradigm as its pretext of power; transforming human rights into the private patrimony of Western elites determined to subjugate lesser breeds for their own uplift, as always. "Realists" may be cynical in disbelieving that politicians and generals, like lawyers, may also be "good people" with good motives.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Gary Bass has written about a very relevant topic for our times : how and why various governments preferred to intervene in other countries' politics in order to prevent war crimes and genocides from happening.We learn that humanitarian intervention is definitely not a twentieth-century invention, and that the idea orginates at the beginning of the nineteenth century.
By dwelling on mainly three example ,Mr.Bass concludes that humanitarian intervention cannot in any case be equated with imperialism.Thus he describes in detail the plight of the Greek people who were under the Turkish yoke. Lord Byron is one of the main characters in the role of Robin Hood who has done his best in order to fight for the agonizing Greeks.
Finally,they won their independence after the famous battle of Navarino where the Turkish fleet did not have any chance of surviving against the British ships of war and was simply obliterated.Mr.Bass gives us a very fresh picture of what went inside the minds of the chief protagonists in this affair,namely:Castlereagh (who -in the end- took his own life),Canning and the bad guy Metternich who did not care at all about the plight of the Greeks(or any group which would endanger the political balance after the Congress of Vienna).
Next comes the story of rivalry and butchery that took place in Syria between the Christian Maronites and the Druze and the third episode-in my opinion:the best- researched one- is about the massacre of the Bulgarians in 1876 -an act committed by the Ottomans. The two outstanding figures here were again Britons: Disraeli,who dispatched the fleet against the Ottomans and Gladstone the eccentric British Prime Minister(who-we are told used self- flagellation after indulging in the pleasures of flesh).
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