It's Not What We Ought To Do, But What We Can Do
Rory Stewart says humanitarian intervention is like mountain rescue—protecting lives doesn't require destructive adventures.
Still, this is a valuable work, at once skeptical but not hopeless, and certainly not deterministic, about the prospects of a moral element in foreign-military policy.
In the end, Knaus responds to the question of what works and what doesn't in this way:
The answer from the last two decades is that where we believe that any price is worth paying, and that failure is not an option, we are likely to fail. Where we tread carefully, and fear the consequences of our mistake, there is a chance.
Fred Kaplan is Slate's "War Stories" columnist and author of the book, The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter.
Photograph of Libyan rebels by Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images.