Susie Linfield reviews Conor Foley's The Thin Blue Line: How Humanitarianism Went to War in a substantial article in the New Humanist. The review compares Foley's book to two other recent books on humanitarian aid (Linda Polman's War Games and Irene Khan's The Unheard Truth).
How should we respond to the next Bosnia—or the next Rwanda? To the next Sierra Leone or Kosovo—or, for that matter, to the current Somalia or Zimbabwe or Darfur? Are these humanitarian crimes? Political crises? Both? Neither?
It is these questions that Conor Foley addresses in The Thin Blue Line, an analysis of "how humanitarianism went to war". Foley is an aid worker who has worked in, among other places, Kosovo, Bosnia and Afghanistan. While I disagree with some of his analyses and conclusions, the thoughtfulness, humility and specificity with which he approaches the thorniest problems should be a model for other writers, and stand in sharp contrast to Polman's diatribes and Khan's platitudes.
Visit the Frontline Club website to watch Conor Foley debate with Linda Polman at an event in May this year. You can read Conor Foley's account of the debate on the Guardian website.