In This Review

Can Intervention Work? (Amnesty International Global Ethics Series)
Can Intervention Work? (Amnesty International Global Ethics Series)
By Rory Stewart,Gerald Knaus
W. W. Norton & Company, 2011, 236 pp

This book consists of a joint introduction followed by an essay from each contributor. Knaus writes about Bosnia, a relatively successful case of international intervention. His essay is worthy and informative, although he sometimes seems to advocate approaches that the introduction suggests are unwise. Stewart’s essay is persuasively and elegantly written. Stewart mocks formulaic approaches to intervention and rejects almost all policy prescriptions for Afghanistan other than extracting foreign troops as soon and as gracefully as possible. His basic aim is to warn against meddling in societies without a deep knowledge of their languages, politics, and cultures. Stewart swears he is not nostalgic for a time when colonial administrators ruled foreign lands and remained in their posts for decades. Nonetheless, as a former soldier, diplomat, adventurer, academic, and now parliamentarian, he does cut a rather nineteenth-century figure. One imagines Stewart would have been at home dispensing wise, if occasionally rough, justice in the outposts of the British Empire, working with local people whose customs and power structures he had learned to respect.