In This Review

Can Might Make Rights? Building the Rule of Law After Military Interventions

Can Might Make Rights? Building the Rule of Law After Military Interventions
By Jane Stromseth, David Wippman, and Rosa Brooks
424 pp, Cambridge University Press, 2006
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Never before has building the rule of law in trouble spots been so closely tied to international security. This impressive book, written by three law professors, offers a systematic look at the challenges of promoting stable government in postconflict societies. Sifting through the experiences of Bosnia, Haiti, Afghanistan, and Iraq, the authors stress the importance of strengthening the foundational supports for the rule of law, which starts with ensuring basic security and establishing functioning public institutions. The evidence from past efforts suggests that even rudimentary steps forward are difficult, but the authors argue that the best strategy is a "holistic" approach that is "ends-based and strategic, adaptive and dynamic, and systematic." This essentially means that specific postconflict programs cannot work if pursued in isolation; courts, prisons, and police must be established together. At the same time, these efforts must be pursued with absolute sensitivity to the unique historical and cultural settings. Success, the authors conclude, requires sustained and coordinated commitments and the willing involvement of domestic groups. It is far from clear that the international community is sufficiently organized for such a demanding task.