Freedom on Fire: Human Rights Wars and America’s Response

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9780674011625: Freedom on Fire: Human Rights Wars and America’s Response

As the chief human rights official of the Clinton Administration, John Shattuck faced far-flung challenges. Disasters were exploding simultaneously--genocide in Rwanda and Bosnia, murder and atrocities in Haiti, repression in China, brutal ethnic wars, and failed states in other parts of the world. But America was mired in conflicting priorities and was reluctant to act. What were Shattuck and his allies to do?

This is the story of their struggle inside the U.S. government over how to respond. Shattuck tells what was tried and what was learned as he and other human rights hawks worked to change the Clinton Administration's human rights policy from disengagement to saving lives and bringing war criminals to justice. He records his frustrations and disappointments, as well as the successes achieved in moving human rights to the center of U.S. foreign policy.

Shattuck was at the heart of the action. He was the first official to interview the survivors of Srebrenica. He confronted Milosevic in Belgrade. He was a key player in bringing the leaders of genocide in Bosnia and Rwanda to justice. He pushed from the inside for an American response to the crisis of the Haitian boat people. He pressed for the release of political prisoners in China. His book is both an insider's account and a detailed prescription for preventing such wars in the future.

Shattuck criticizes the Bush Administration's approach, which he says undermines human rights at home and around the world. He argues that human rights wars are breeding grounds for terrorism. Freedom on Fire describes the shifting challenges of global leadership in a world of explosive hatreds and deepening inequalities.

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About the Author:

John Shattuck served as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor from 1993 to 1998, and as U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic from 1998 to 2000. Currently, he is Chief Executive Officer of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation in Boston.

From Publishers Weekly:

A self-described "human rights hawk," Shattuck has had a three-decade career including a term with Amnesty International and culminating in a stint as chief human rights official in the Clinton Administration from 1993 to 1998. Shattuck's years of experience give impact and insight to his analysis of a post-Cold War environment that restricted U.S. intervention in human rights catastrophes that cost as many as five million lives. Bureaucratic infighting and public support (or its lack) were, he argues, exacerbated by a "Somalia syndrome," making the administration unwilling to risk the domestic fallout from further loss of lives. Shattuck spent his government career trying to overcome that structure of obstacles with at best mixed success. The strength of the book is its four case studies. Rwanda, according to Shattuck, was a genocide that might have been prevented. In Bosnia, eventual U.S. intervention did break a decade-long cycle of killing. In Haiti the U.S. succeeded in building an international coalition to step in before human rights abuses became catastrophic. And in China, "politics as usual" left human rights issues trampled in the dust. Shattuck combines morality and pragmatism, arguing that even before September 11, the costs to the U.S. of not intervening quickly and decisively in developing human rights crises outweighed the advantages of remaining on the sidelines. Without assistance, states collapse, and failed states become centers of disorder and loci of terrorism. Shattuck correspondingly calls for a redefinition of international security, based on early warning of human rights crises followed by preventive measures, and, where necessary, direct intervention, including military force. Recent events in Iraq will factor into readers' weighing of Shattuck's argument.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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