McDermott, author of Egypt from Nasser to Mubarak: A Flawed Revolution, has edited a unique and controversial book arguing for the sovereignty of humanitarian intervention, an important aspect of international politics in the twenty-first century. Intervention can no longer be dismissed as aggression on grounds of violating state sovereignty. McDermott declares that state sovereignty "implies responsibility, not just power." Sovereign Intervention, an original work on an emerging topic, is likely to generate tremendous response and stimulate a full-fledged body of literature on sovereign intervention.
Two penetrating analyses - Dan Smith on sovereignty and intervention and McDermott himself on intervention in the Middle East – give this serious work further credence. Smith observes that the age of globalization has witnessed a marked reduction in state sovereignty and undemocratic states have no right to use the principle of sovereignty as an excuse to oppress their populations. The Treaty of Westphalia, regarded as the originator of the concept of sovereignty in the nation-state context, did not extended absolute rights to the rulers but restrained their behavior. This restraint today serves as a basis for sovereign intervention.
McDermott finds several reasons for the absence of foreign intervention in Algeria's civil strife and Iraq's confrontation with the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM), tasked with for destroying Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. The major reason for noninterference in Algeria lay in that government's insistence that its domestic travails are nobody else's business. Also important was that the Islamist threat in Algeria did not spill over to other North African countries. Iraq avoided intervention because of the opposition among Arab publics. The fact that low-intensity air raids are taking place, despite Arab resentment, attests to the complexity of intervention and the interplay between politics and economics at the expense of humanitarianism. McDermott keenly notes that when intervention occurs, it "is hardly altruistic or humanitarian."