In retrospect it’s easy to see that the argument over humanitarian intervention that should have taken place in the years after Kosovo was replaced and muddled by an argument over the Bush doctrine of preemptive war. In 2000–01, a high-powered international commission convened to discuss what the international community should do in the event of a human rights crisis in a failing state; one of their recommendations was that the concept of “humanitarian intervention” be scrapped, as being needlessly prejudicial (like “pro-life”), and replaced with the more capacious, less necessarily violent “responsibility to protect.” The group’s report was humane and intelligent, though not without problems; it was also presented before the UN Security Council in December 2001, at which point it had been “O.B.E.,” as they say in Washington—overtaken by events. The same happened with Samantha Power’s “A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide, the summa theologica of liberal interventionist historiography, which was published in 2002. The book immediately became part of the debate over Iraq, with George W. Bush famously scribbling NOMW (“not on my watch”) in a memo outlining its arguments. Not long after, he invaded Iraq.
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