Foreign Policy

Origins Podcast
12:06 pm
Tue May 15, 2012

Humanitarian Intervention: The American Experience from William McKinley to Barack Obama

In the late 19th century, humanitarian intervention was a popular idea among U.S. citizens. In this detail from a political cartoon, a caring woman whose garment reads "liberty" symbolizes this impulse.

Many of us think of humanitarian intervention as a recent phenomenon of United States foreign policy. Certainly, critics of Barack Obama’s intervention in Libya saw America’s humanitarian involvement there as some new-fangled excuse to go mucking around in other countries. This month historian Jeff Bloodworth traces a much longer history of humanitarian intervention that goes back to the administration of William McKinley and is connected with the Protestant ideals of some of the nation's founders.