Thirty years ago, few people could have identified a humanitarian aid organization other than the International Committee of the Red Cross. Today, humanitarian organizations like the International Rescue Committee, Save the Children, and the Paris-based Doctors Without Borders have become household names to millions of people in Western Europe and a growing number in the United States.
In Europe, humanitarianism, as Francois Jean, a leading official at Doctors Without Borders, has remarked, "occupies a central place." The contemporary form of humanitarianism, although the brainchild of left-wing French intellectuals of the May 1968 generation, has become so mainstream that France has a junior minister for humanitarian affairs. Things have proceeded more slowly in the United States, where humanitarian organizations have tended to rely on their ties to the State Department and the Agency for International Development (aid) more than their ability to mobilize the general public.
Nonetheless, even if most Americans are
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