The Human Rights Conundrum

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It’s been fifty years since World War II and the promise of “never again”, but despite real advances in human rights, the atrocities in Rwanda, Bosnia, and Kosovo have left the world wringing its hands.

Although most modern states have worked human rights into their constitutions and activist networks have blossomed around the globe, countries seem unable to agree on how to stop ethnic cleansing and genocide. In the post-Cold-War 1990s, the West adopted a pattern of giving in to powerful states like China and Russia but strong-arming weak nations like Yugoslavia and Iraq.

And where the West did intervene – in Kosovo, for example, where NATO waged a zero-casualty Virtual War – some argue we did as much harm as good. The reporter/philosopher Michael Ignatief says the human rights movement is struggling for legitimacy and confidence.

We’re having a conversation about the embattled idea of Human Rights in this hour.
(Hosted by Christopher Lydon)


Michael Ignatieff, author of “A Warrior’s Honor.”