Gambling on Humanitarian Intervention: Moral Hazard, Rebellion and Civil War edited by Timothy W. Crawford, Alan J. Kuperman
|Reviewed By:||Kirsten J. Fisher|
|Reviewed in:||Political Studies Review|
|Date accepted online:||14/01/2008|
|Published in print:||Volume 05, Issue 03, Pages 395-474|
Book Reviews: Political Theory
This edited volume is an interesting contribution to the existing body of literature on rebellions, internal conflict and violence, and civil war. It explores the concept of moral hazard, which until recently has been rooted firmly in the economics discipline, as it applies to the implied insurance of humanitarian intervention. Moral hazard, in this context, is the idea that the prospect of intervention, intended as a type of insurance policy against genocidal violence, encourages risk-taking in minority groups, provoking genocidal retaliation by the state. As Arman Grigorian asserts in his contribution to the volume, 'the moral hazard theory of intervention is a welcome addition to a literature that sees violence against minorities as nothing more than a manifestation of misguided ideologies and murderous nationalism' (p. 59).
The primary focus of this book is the Former Yugoslavia. However, the disagreements as to whether the concept of moral hazard applies to this particular situation lead one to wonder whether the addition of a wider range of cases would have strengthened the book or damaged the case for this concept being applicable to international relations at all. Similarly, since the collection consists of a limited number of essays - six in total, of which two are written by the editors - does this indicate the absence of a credible concept or an innovative but not-yet-embraced idea?
The repetition that arises from each article defining the concept of moral hazard by using the same examples of insured investments in banks and insured automobiles is tedious, and might have been eliminated with better editing. On the other hand, this repetition does demonstrate a clear and agreed definition (often lacking in theories of this type) and allows each essay to stand alone without demanding prior knowledge of the concept or requiring the reader to search for the accepted definition elsewhere in the collection. What this volume offers is a number of essays exploring the radical application of moral hazard theory to an international political context, and therefore a valuable reading experience for anyone unfamiliar with this emerging debate.