Conversations with History: Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley

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Humanitarianism, the Human Rights Movement, and U.S. Foreign Policy: Conversation with David Rieff, author; March 11, 2003 by Harry Kreisler

This interview is part of the Institute's "Conversations with History" series, and uses Internet technology to share with the public Berkeley's distinction as a global forum for ideas.

Welcome to a Conversation with History. I'm Harry Kreisler of the Institute of International Studies. Our guest today is David Rieff, who's the author of five books, including Slaughterhouse: Bosnia and Failure of the West, and most recently, A Bed for the Night: Humanitarianism in Crisis. David continues to cover wars and humanitarianism in many parts of the world.

  1. Background ... influence of parents ... writing as the family business ... cosmopolitan upbringing ... education ... influence of Ivan Illich
  2. Being a Writer ... hardest part of writing ... translation of experience ... frustration ... necessity of being in the field ... creative process ... research ... travel diary ... write up ... writer as critic
  3. Humanitarianism ... origins in the Left ... idealism in era of reduced expectations ... transformation of humanitarianism in the 1990s ... no more "faraway people" ... fig leaf for political agendas ... cases of Bosnia and Kosovo
  4. Human Rights and Imperialist Intervention ... human rights movement vs. humanitarianism ... imperialism's roots in "altruism" ... leaning away from intervention ... notable exceptions: Rwanda and Bosnia
  5. Realism vs. Utopianism ... choosing when to intervene ... utopianism of Bush administration ... millenarian fantasies of both left and right ... domestic costs of the war on terrorism ... the victors' debasement in war ... special moral problem of war on terrorism

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