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First Do No Harm
Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of Yugoslavia
David N. Gibbs
Author BioDavid N. Gibbs, Associate Professor of History and Political Science, University of Arizona, is the author of The Political Economy of Third World Intervention, and his articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, and Le Monde Diplomatique.
Main DescriptionIn First Do No Harm, David Gibbs raises basic questions about the humanitarian interventions that have played a key role in U.S. foreign policy for the past twenty years. Using a wide range of sources, including government documents, transcripts of international war crimes trials, and memoirs, Gibbs shows how these interventions often heightened violence and increased human suffering.
The book focuses on the 1991--99 breakup of Yugoslavia, which helped forge the idea that the United States and its allies could stage humanitarian interventions that would end ethnic strife. It is widely believed that NATO bombing campaigns in Bosnia and Kosovo played a vital role in stopping Serb-directed aggression, and thus resolving the conflict.
Gibbs challenges this view, offering an extended critique of Samantha Power's Pulitzer Prize-winning book, A Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide. He shows that intervention contributed to the initial breakup of Yugoslavia, and then helped spread the violence and destruction. Gibbs also explains how the motives for U.S. intervention were rooted in its struggle for continued hegemony in Europe.
First Do No Harm argues for a new, noninterventionist model for U.S. foreign policy, one that deploys nonmilitary methods for addressing ethnic violence.
Reviews"This is an important work which anyone with an interest in how diplomacy is actually conducted should read."
--Science and Society
Gibbs offers a powerful new interpretation of the Balkan wars of the 1990s.
--Chalmers Johnson, author of The Blowback Trilogy (2000-2006)
Read the Press Release . . .
(NASHVILLE, TN) June 2009 marks the tenth anniversary of the end of the US/NATO war against Serbia and in the decade since then, conventional wisdom is that such militarized humanitarian intervention is often necessary and successful.
In his new book, First Do No Harm: Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of Yugoslavia (June 2009), David N. Gibbs argues that not only is humanitarian intervention not very successful in ending ethnic strife, but that our intervention in Yugoslavia contributed to the initial breakup of the country, and then helped spread the violence and destruction. Gibbs also presents a forceful critique of Samantha Power's Pulitzer Prize-winning book A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide.
"Government documents, transcripts of international war crimes trials, and memoirs of the time, they all show that far from solving the humanitarian emergency, intervention worsened the problem," Gibbs says. "Nonmilitary methods of addressing ethnic violence and oppression are more effective in the long term than military force."
First Do No Harm argues for a US policy that engages international humanitarian issues, but resists intervention. Chalmers Johnson termed the book "a pioneering study ... a powerful new interpretation of the Balkan wars of the 1990s."
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