From Kosovo to Kabul: Human Rights and International Intervention.

Author:Pulzetti, Maria K.
Position:Book Review

From Kosovo to Kabul: Human Rights and International Intervention, by David A. Chandler Publisher: Pluto Press (2002) Price: $24.95

What does international humanitarian law have to say about food packages air-dropped onto minefields? This question confronted the staff of a major human rights organization, gathered in the Empire State Building conference room, from which several staff members had watched two planes fly into the World Trade Center just one month earlier. There to discuss human rights aspects of the recently-begun air campaign against the Taliban, the human rights specialists also inquired whether the simultaneous dropping of bombs and food aid in any way violated international humanitarian law. What if the food boxes, refrigerator-sized containers designed to break apart mid-fall, malfunctioned and fell whole, injuring civilians?

David Chandler, a Lecturer in International Relations at Brunel University in England and the author of other books on international human rights, did not know of this meeting or surely he would have raised it in his 2002 book From Kosovo to Kabul: Human Rights and International Intervention. Chandler sees the campaigns in both Kosovo and Afghanistan as illustrative of a new interventionist human rights approach to international policy, which has developed, not between 1999 and 2001 as the title might imply, but in the decade between the sunset of the Cold War and the NATO bombing campaign in Yugoslavia. Chandler uses the simultaneous dropping of food and bombs in Afghanistan as an illustration of morally vacant compromise between international policy makers, human rights norms, and humanitarian organizations.

In this book, Chandler examines the implications of the human rights approach to international policy-making, especially focusing on its theoretical and ethical limits. Chandler relies on the following sources: statements made by state leaders and policymakers; writings of human rights scholars and commentators such as Louis Henkin, Michael Ignatieff, and David Rieff; the work of major human rights and humanitarian NGOs, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Medicins sans Frontieres; press reports; and U.N. documents.

The human rights movement bridges the worlds of activism, policymaking, political theory, and international law. This position, combined with the urgency imbuing many human rights causes, tends to discourage scholarly inquiry in favor of timely action...

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