This gripping and important book brings alive over two hundred years of humanitarian interventions. Freedom’s Battle illuminates the passionate debates between conscience and imperialism ignited by the first human rights activists in the 19th century, and shows how a newly emergent free press galvanized British, American, and French citizens to action by exposing them to distant atrocities. Wildly romantic and full of bizarre enthusiasms, these activists were pioneers of a new political consciousness. And their legacy has much to teach us about today’s human rights crises.
The more physically secure a Western nation feels, the more likely it is to intervene abroad for humanitarian reasons. This was certainly the case in the 1990s, when, with the Cold War behind us and no obvious threat yet in front of us, the United States intervened in Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia and Kosovo. At the time, a host of commentators branded such interventions a new phenomenon in international relations. But the 19th century in Europe, thanks to the Congress of Vienna that ended the Napoleonic Wars…was also a time of relative peace, and in the atmosphere of security that followed came a series of humanitarian interventions on behalf of Greeks, Syrian Christians and Bulgarians. In Freedom's Battle, Princeton professor Gary J. Bass recounts them in a lively, subtle and comprehensive manner that sheds a penetrating light on current policy debates…Bass's sense of nuance constitutes the strength of this book, which has the force of a polemic without descending to one.