World Disorders: Troubled Peace in the Post-Cold War Era

Article excerpt

World Disorders: Troubled Peace in the Post-Cold War Era

by Stanley Hoffmann

Rowman & Littlefield * 1998 * 279 pages * $29.95

Reviewed by Ivan Eland

Harvard professor Stanley Hoffmann is an unbridled interventionist. Although he decries any American role as the global policeman, he proposes intervening for so many purposes and under so many circumstances that chevrons begin to form on his shoulders.

Hoffmann rejects the argument that the United States should withdraw from entanglements and international commitments. Although he admits that few threats to American vital interests exist-he makes an exception for the Middle East-he declares that a world of diffuse disorder could rapidly become a dangerous place. He argues that societies and economies are too interdependent for the United States to be sure that what happens in small, poor, weak nations will not affect Americans. He maintains that apathy about what happens in "far away countries of which we know nothing" can lead through contagion-and through the message that passivity sends to troublemakers-to "creeping escalation of disorder and beastliness that will, sooner or later, reach the shores of the complacent, the rich, and the indifferent." In short, Hoffmann endorses the domino theory of instability.

He then goes even further, taking issue with those who say that U.S. foreign policy should be based on interests and not values. Hoffmann asserts that morality is a national interest.

Thus Hoffmann advocates intervention in foreign internal crises when the turmoil threatens regional or international security or when human rights violations become so massive that they cannot be ignored. His broad definition of massive human rights violations includes genocide, mass killings short of genocide, ethnic cleansing, brutal and large-scale repression, mass rape, famines, epidemics, massive breakdowns of law and order, and flights of refugees. …