MixedThe New Republic... a continuation of Moyn’s decade-long critique of human rights and the liberal ideology that undergirds them. But, unlike his earlier books, Humane expresses a more avowed anti-imperialism, looking specifically at the misplaced idealism used to justify American Empire to the nation’s elites ... Moyn’s wide reading in North Atlantic philosophy, legal theory, and criticism enables him to reconstruct a centuries-old debate that most scholars have downplayed or ignored ... Moyn’s narrow focus on the law sometimes leads him to mischaracterize parts of his story ... implies that the arguments of humane war’s advocates were the primary reason the United States adopted the tactics of humane war. But such arguments found purchase only when other, more causally important transformations took place—when the advent of new technologies, domestic coalitions, and state institutions encouraged and enabled the United States to dominate the world through light-footprint and \'precision\' wars. Furthermore, several countries, including Azerbaijan, Iraq, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, have used drones without making any pretense of practicing humane war, which suggests that other factors besides the intellectual are driving the use of this especially effective technology ... Intellectually, Moyn’s criticisms of humane war are spot-on. But I can’t help but conclude that his focus on humane war is somewhat behind the times. Arguments for humane war no longer occupy the center of political debate as they did in the Bush and Obama years; Trump’s vulgarities have given the lie to the idea that the United States is an exceptional nation able to ethically govern the world. The recently elected Joe Biden barely mentioned law, and said nothing about humane conflict, in his February speech addressing U.S. foreign policy. Critiques of humane war simply do not speak to the new era of great power competition, which pits the United States and its allies against China, Russia, and other authoritarian powers. Nor do they directly address the major, and consistent, reasons the United States acts in the world as it does: the desire and ability to dominate others ... affirms that observers must focus less on how war is fought and more on whether it is fought. The concern with humane war paved the way for the more ambitious demands anti-imperialists are making today. For the first time in almost a century, we can dare to imagine peace.
PositiveThe New Republic... unique in its near-exclusive focus on domestic U.S. history ... Wertheim’s book contributes to the effort to transform U.S. foreign policy by giving pro-restraint Americans a usable past. Though Tomorrow, the World is not a polemic, its implications are invigorating.
PanThe New Republic... vivid and engaging prose ... The most startling thing about a book titled The Education of an Idealist is that Power appears not to have learned very much ... [Power] barely mentions Israel or Saudi Arabia—she says nothing about Israel’s occupation of the West Bank or the Saudi war on women and LGBTQI+ people. These silences are deafening, because the type of world Power wants to build will never be realized if only certain countries—namely, those that stand outside America’s imperial sphere—are held to account. Her approach does not make much sense from a pragmatic perspective either: U.S. officials have the highest likelihood of ending human rights abuses in countries that depend on us; there is little point in spending political capital in a mostly quixotic attempt to transform antagonists like North Korea ... Meanwhile, Power completely ignores the human rights violations that took place in her own country under Obama’s watch; like many liberal interventionists, she is far more vexed by suffering abroad. Nowhere does she address police violence against African Americans, mass surveillance, refugee detention, or mass incarceration. Nor does she give much thought to the colonial violence that defines American history ... does not account for these social ills, or consider that the only way we can avoid them is by giving up the capacities that enable us (theoretically, if not in practice) to alleviate foreign suffering ... Power’s memoir shows how much the discourse of humanitarian intervention obscures. By focusing on the question \'Do we save innocent lives?\' liberal interventionists like Power shift our attention from an equally important query: \'How do we change conditions so lives don’t need to be saved?\' A world oriented around this last question would look very different from the one we have now.
MixedThe Los Angeles Review of BooksThe book is, in fact, a Bildungsroman, a tale of one intellectual’s disillusionment with the country in which he had placed so much trust. It reveals how the horrors of US nuclear war planning transformed a man of the establishment into a left-wing firebrand … Ellsberg recognizes that no president has ‘actually desired ever to order the execution of [nuclear] plans.’ But he rightly concludes that no one, no matter how well intentioned, should have access to the awesome power of a Doomsday Machine … Ellsberg’s plan is a noble one that suffers from two defects. First, he doesn’t discuss how to change the minds of those whose livelihoods and identities are wrapped up in the United States maintaining its nuclear arsenal...Second, he does not address how to change public opinion.