Recovering from the popular trauma of Vietnam has been agonizing for the nation's imperial managers. Running a global empire requires seizing opportunity when it arises, as well as strafing the unruly when they threaten to break ranks. But all that got a lot harder once the bloody realities of southeast Asia gave intervention a bad name. Still, there's considerable truth in the old saying, "Where there's a will, there's a way", and there's definitely a "will" in Washington-- an imperial will. But after Vietnam, the "way" took some time to crystallize. Enter the concept "humanitarian intervention", a phrase bound to engage the heart of every well-meaning liberal. What better reason to intervene in another country's internal affairs, than to do so under the cover of aiding human rights. No more need for an Ollie North running covert intervention from the White House basement, or being thwarted by a restive anti-war Congress. Now even liberals and anti-globalists can climb on board the interventionist train. And many did, riding all the way to Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, and Iraq before the wheels fell off in Baghdad.
Bricmont's succinct little volume is about as timely as timely gets. In a 150-plus pages, we're reminded why the US cannot be trusted to conduct any post-WWII intervention, "humantarian" or otherwise. Just as importantly, Bricmont points out how counter-productive these intercessions prove in advancing ordinary standards of human rights. Much of the material here is likely familiar to students of US foreign policy. Still, discussing the track record within the context of humanitarian assumptions serves a very timely purpose, and should be required reading for all who want to climb aboard that meretricious train.
Several miscellaneous points: Situating the left's present predicament remains a key requirement for moving beyond our present benighted stage. The Preface presents a provocative set of 20th-century comparisons as signposts, e.g., anti-imperialism, not socialism, characterizes that century's trajectory, thus placing the Third World's evolutionary advances in a clearer light. Also aiding the text are the author's well-placed efforts at dealing honestly with the Soviet experience. There's little of the reflex anti-Sovietism that characterizes much of current left opinion. In fact, it's hard to see how the left can revive without an honest eye-level reckoning with 70 years of "socialism under siege". Lastly, the book deals with the issue of interventionism within the present era of US dominance. It's not a work of theory. There may be scattered references to certain conditions justjfying foreign intervention, but Bricmont's not trying to arrive at general criteria. Put succinctly, we have a better idea of what does not justify foreign intervention, than we have of what does.
Anyway, Bricmont's is a highly topical work, deserving of much greater attention than what it's currently getting on this site.