Agency and Ethics

The Politics of Military Intervention

By Anthony F. Lang Jr.

Subjects: History
Series: SUNY series in Global Politics
Paperback : 9780791451366, 266 pages, October 2001
Hardcover : 9780791451359, 266 pages, October 2001

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Table of contents



1. Introduction

2. Intervention in Russia

3. Intervention in Egypt

4. Intervention in Somalia

5. The Dilemma of Humanitarian Intervention




SUNY Series in Global Politics

Explains why military interventions with humanitarian goals consistently fail.


Why does political conflict seem to consistently interfere with attempts to provide aid, end ethnic discord, or restore democracy? To answer this question, Agency and Ethics examines how the norms that originally motivate an intervention often create conflict between the intervening powers, outside powers, and the political agents who are the victims of the intervention. Three case studies are drawn upon to illustrate this phenomena: the British and American intervention in Bolshevik Russia in 1918; the British and French intervention in Egypt in 1956; and the American and United Nations intervention in Somalia in 1993. Although rarely categorized together, these three interventions shared at least one strong commonality: all failed to achieve their professed goals, with the troops being ignominiously recalled in each example. Lang concludes by addressing the dilemma of how to resolve complex humanitarian emergencies in the twenty-first century without the necessity of resorting to military intervention.

Anthony F. Lang Jr. is Program Officer at The Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs.


"…Lang's approach is … more theoretically innovative than mainstream constructivism, attempting an unusual synthesis of political theorist Hannah Arendt and classical realist Hans Morgenthau. " — International Affairs

"…thoughtful and logical evaluation and explanation … I suspect that we shall see other analyses of this sort in the near future. " — American Political Science Review

"Agency and Ethics provides a fresh look at the practice of intervention by linking it to the inevitable confrontation between ethics and politics. Lang points out that normative claims and state interests are theoretically and empirically irreconcilable. His turn to Hannah Arendt's agonal and narrative politics to challenge traditional views on ethics and interventionism is as unique as it is unexpected. The result of this analysis is a lucid and lively volume that will be of great interest to scholars of international relations. " — François Debrix, Florida International University