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The Dark Sides of Virtue

The Dark Sides of Virtue: Reassessing International Humanitarianism

David Kennedy
Illustrated by Doug Mayhew
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 400
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  • Book Info
    The Dark Sides of Virtue
    Book Description:

    In this provocative and timely book, David Kennedy explores what can go awry when we put our humanitarian yearnings into action on a global scale--and what we can do in response.

    Rooted in Kennedy's own experience in numerous humanitarian efforts, the book examines campaigns for human rights, refugee protection, economic development, and for humanitarian limits to the conduct of war. It takes us from the jails of Uruguay to the corridors of the United Nations, from the founding of a non-governmental organization dedicated to the liberation of East Timor to work aboard an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf.

    Kennedy shares the satisfactions of international humanitarian engagement--but also the disappointments of a faith betrayed. With humanitarianism's new power comes knowledge that even the most well-intentioned projects can create as many problems as they solve. Kennedy develops a checklist of the unforeseen consequences, blind spots, and biases of humanitarian work--from focusing too much on rules and too little on results to the ambiguities of waging war in the name of human rights. He explores the mix of altruism, self-doubt, self-congratulation, and simple disorientation that accompany efforts to bring humanitarian commitments to foreign settings.

    Writing for all those who wish that "globalization" could be more humane, Kennedy urges us to think and work more pragmatically.

    A work of unusual verve, honesty, and insight, this insider's account urges us to embrace the freedom and the responsibility that come with a deeper awareness of the dark sides of humanitarian governance.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4073-1
    Subjects: Philosophy, Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xxvi)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxvii-xxx)
  5. PART I The International Humanitarian as Advocate and Activist

    • ONE The International Human Rights Movement: Part of the Problem?
      (pp. 3-36)

      There is no question that the international human rights movement has done a great deal of good. It has freed individuals from great harm, provided an emancipatory vocabulary and institutional machinery for people across the globe. It has raised the standards by which governments judge one another, and by which they are judged, both by their own people, and by the elites we refer to collectively as the “international community.” A career in the human rights movement has provided thousands of professionals a sense of dignity and confidence that one sometimes can do well while doing good. The literature praising...

    • TWO Spring Break: The Activist Individual
      (pp. 37-84)

      At 10:00 a.m., March 22, 1984, as guards led Ana Rivera into the small white clinic at Punta Rieles prison, Dr. Richard Goldstein, Patrick Breslin, and I became the first outsiders to speak privately and unconditionally with any of the roughly seven hundred political prisoners held in Uruguayan prisons at that time. We shook her hand, invited the prison officials to leave, and sat down at small table. She was a small woman, about twenty-three years old, her auburn hair pulled awkwardly back in a child’s yellow plastic barrette. Around each wrist hung a red and white string bracelet. Under...

    • THREE Autumn Weekend: The Activist Community
      (pp. 85-108)

      My spring break in Uruguay was almost twenty years ago. Younger, relatively new to human rights activism, I was preoccupied with my own role and with the shifting expectations and relationships which emerged as I carried out a mission largely scripted by others. I should confess, however, that the uncertainty, the tawdry feelings of illegitimacy and ineptitude did not recede much with experience. Whether visiting prisons in the Middle East or attending dissident trials in pretransition Eastern Europe, I remained intensely ambivalent about the work, suspicious of my own engagements. But it has also become clear how rarely humanitarian activism...

  6. PART II The International Humanitarian as Policy Maker

    • FOUR Humanitarian Policy Making: Pragmatism without Politics?
      (pp. 111-148)

      International policy making now affects most every domain in which the contemporary welfare state is active. Indeed, the globalization of policy making may be the most significant change in the structure, site and substance of political culture since the consolidation of the nation state as the primary arena for popular politics a century or more ago. Numerous global policy initiatives have sprung from humanitarian motives, often with compelling results in such areas as arms control, international criminal law, economic development, environmental protection, health and safety, immigration and refugee affairs, labor policy and more.

      The outsider posture of critical judgment and...

    • FIVE The Rule of Law as a Strategy for Economic Development
      (pp. 149-168)

      Over the past ten years, policy makers interested in promoting economic development in the third world have increasingly turned their attention to law and law reform. As a result, “law and development”—the study of law as a policy making instrument for economic development—is back, taught again in law faculties, the focus of policy initiatives at the leading development institutions, the subject of numerous books and conferences.

      It is hard to imagine an economic development strategy which wouldnotrely in one or another way on law. The set of national development policies which came to be known as...

    • SIX Bringing Market Democracy to Eastern and Central Europe
      (pp. 169-198)

      In the years immediately following the fall of the Berlin Wall, many foreign policy specialists were filled with enthusiasm. The entire international system seemed open to renewal, with Europe the epicenter of transformation. More than four decades of East-West stalemate ended more abruptly and completely than had seemed imaginable. The European Union was poised to complete an ambitious legislative program to create a “single internal market” in 1992. For a time, these dramatic changes seemed to place Europe at the vanguard of an exciting rebirth of international humanitarian possibility. The European market program was to be more than a collection...

    • SEVEN The International Protection of Refugees
      (pp. 199-234)

      Much humanitarian work involves persuading other actors to address humanitarian concerns. Individual activists do this through their advocacy, just as international organizations lobby national governments to take action. Alongside this work, humanitarian professionals elaborate vocabularies to justify and empower their advocacy, design strategies for persuasion, and struggle to strengthen their advocacy institutions. These activities are also a form of policy making. International humanitarians argue with one another about how their tools should develop, about which rights to promote, which violations to stress, and about which procedures work best or how international institutions might best be restructured.

      Humanitarian policy making often...

    • EIGHT Humanitarianism and Force
      (pp. 235-324)

      International humanitarians abjure war. Reducing the frequency and violence of war have been central objectives for humanitarian policy making. International law has been an indispensable tool, fashioned, promoted, interpreted, and applied to moderate the use of military force. More than a hundred years of policy making about warfare has yielded a heterogenous regime of legal doctrines, principles, and institutions. These have been progressively absorbed by military cultures around the world and may well have prevented untold suffering. We can only guess at the relief provided countless prisoners and other victims of war by institutions like the International Committee for the...

  7. PART III What International Humanitarianism Should Become

    • NINE Humanitarian Power
      (pp. 327-358)

      The impulse to make the world more just, more secure, more fair—more humane, in short—survives exposure to the dark sides of international humanitarianism. But the dark sides I have described are also resilient. Aspiring to good, humanitarians too often mute awareness that their best ideas can have bad consequences. When things do go wrong, rather than facing the darker consequences of humanitarian work, we too often simply redouble our efforts and intensify our condemnation of whatever other forces we can find to hold responsible.

      It is difficult to work as a human rights activist taking to heart the...

  8. Index
    (pp. 359-368)