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Nassim Nicholas Taleb (Author / )
This is an outstanding book on the side effects of interventionism, written in extremely elegant prose and with maximal clarity. It documents how people find arguments couched in moralistic terms to intervene in complex systems they don't understand.
These interventions trigger endless chains of unintended consequences --consequences for the victims, but none for the interventionistas, allowing them to repeat the mistake again and again. Puri, as an insider, outlines the principles and legal mechanisms, then runs through the events of the past few years since the Iraq invasion; each one of his chapters are models of concision, presenting the story of Ukraine, Syria, Lybia, and Yemen, among others, as standalone briefings to the uninitiated. It was high time that somebody in international affairs has approached the problem of "iatrogenics", i.e. harm done by the healer.
This book should be mandatory reading to every student and practitioner of foreign affairs.
It was an exclusive lunch at a high-end Manhattan restaurant on 7 March 2011. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his A-team were present. It soon became clear that the main item on the menu was Libya, where it was alleged that the forces of Muammar Gaddafi were advancing on the rebel stronghold of Benghazi to crush all opposition. Over an $80 per head lunch, a small group of the world's most important diplomats from countries represented on the Security Council discussed the possibility of the use of force.
As things turned out, the Council's authorization came only ten days later, and all hell broke loose. Hardeep Singh Puri, India's envoy to the UN at the time, now reveals the Council's whimsical decision making and the ill-thought-out itch to intervene on the part of some of its permanent members. Perilous Interventions shows how some recent instances of the use of force - not just in Libya but also in Syria, Yemen and Crimea, as well as India's misadventure in Sri Lanka in the 1980s - have gone disastrously wrong.
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