Oryx over shdr

Namibia – an African success story with a blemish

by Ingrid Lehmann, 20 January 2020

 

 

1. A peace process with many hurdles

I was 30 years old, working as a junior officer in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General of the United Nations in New York. In August 1978, I was happy to take time off and joined a journalist friend in the beautiful archipelago near Stockholm, Sweden.

The vacation ended unexpectedly when the Chief of Cabinet of the Secretary-General called me and asked that I return to New York as soon as possible to join the first UN survey mission leaving for Southwest Africa, a territory then still illegally administered by South Africa. I was intrigued as I had followed the negotiations since the mid-1970s, and broke off my holiday to fly to New York, get very brief instructions from my boss and get on another plane with colleagues leaving for Namibia the next day. The plane was a C-130 cargo plane, lent to us by the United States, which was a strong supporter of the UN’s efforts in Southern Africa under President Carter. The then US-Ambassador to the UN, Don McHenry, personally saw us off.

At that time, I was still able to sleep in cargo planes without problems and woke up on arrival to find out that I really had no function in this survey mission except to assuage the German Foreign Office. They had wanted to send one of their own diplomats, a request that was refused by the head of the UN mission, Martti Ahtisaari. Sitting by the pool in the Safari motel in Windhoek doing nothing was not my thing; when the mission split up into various civilian and military components, the only people who agreed to have me along were the small group of UN military officers. The civilians apparently considered me a spy from the Secretary-General’s office and saw no useful function for me, while the UN force commander designate considered me an ally with political know-how.

 

HeliIng

Travelling with the military turned out to be an advantage, as the South Africans, in 1978, had decided to go along with the UN’s plan for the independence of Namibia and treated us as honored guests. I thus saw much of the country (which is half as large as Western Europe), hopping on military planes and helicopters and sleeping in tents. I fell in love with the vast beautiful country and met some impressive locals, with whom I would stay friends for years to come. We returned to New York full of optimism that the Western settlement plan would work out and would be implemented shortly, but then South Africa reneged on the agreement and the peace plan “435” (named after the Security Council resolution) went on hold for another 11 years.

During the next decade, I thought about Namibia often, followed the negotiations from afar, went on another peacekeeping mission (Cyprus) and joined two other UN Departments as Political and Information Officer. In 1988, there was a thawing of positions between SWAPO (South-West African People’s Organization), and the South Africans, as numerous cold war conflicts came to a close. Agreements were signed and our old plans for the independence process were pulled out of drawers as implementation this time seemed to be for real.

In 1989 I was fortunate to be seconded to the new UN survey mission to prepare for the independence process which was to start on 1 April. We were back at the same pool in the Safari Motel outside Windhoek when SWAPO’s military wing, in violation of the cease-fire agreement, led an incursion in the North of the country. We feared the worst, as South Africa threatened to throw us out of the country. I started calculating how long it would take to drive to Botswana to escape the threatening war, and began to hoard fuel in jerry cans. But crisis talks conducted by UN diplomats in Angola were successful, and the mission could finally begin its work in earnest.

I became head of a small district office of the UN Transition Assistance Group (UNTAG) and stayed there throughout the registration of voters and the campaigning of parties, watching over a political “code of conduct”. Prior to the elections in November 1989 I became head of the whole Windhoek electoral district which ranged from east of the capital to Solitaire in the west, nearly 350 km away on unpaved roads. It was a good year of very hard work, some political turmoil, as well as physical attacks on members of the UN mission, but our work was crowned when the first free and fair elections took place in Namibia under UN surveillance. A strong Constitution was worked out with the help of UN and other international legal experts, and the country celebrated its independence in April 1990.

Ing Gokagana

Voter registration, 1989

Lesson 1: An international peace process following protracted civil war is rarely a smooth linear affair, but often entails setbacks and may take decades to come to fruition. Patience and a strong will by the international community including the superpowers are required to see fruition. The Namibian civil war, in other words, in 1989/90, was “ripe” for settlement.

2. Namibia – independent and democratic

The country had a good start, plenty of good will internationally, material support and training assistance. Its leaders had been well educated during their time in exile abroad, and had matured through the long liberation struggle. Western Europe, predominantly Germany as a former colonial power with many residents with German passports, maintained a keen interest for years to come and provided generous aid. The memory of the brief but brutal German colonial dominance in South-West Africa (1884-1915) stays vivid among the Herero and Nama people in Namibia until today, but resentment against the whites never flared up as it did in Zimbabwe or South Africa itself.

When my husband and I visited Namibia in April 2005 we were both impressed by how well the country was doing and the feeling of good will which persisted among all major ethnic groups. Blacks had advanced politically and economically with independence, and primary and secondary education were generally available. Opportunities  were created for hard-working talents to advance to management positions. Training institutes prepared young people to become involved in the booming tourism industry. English was the official language, even though the 10+ ethnic languages were cherished and considered part of the country’s cultural heritage. Racism was not eliminated, but racial equality was enshrined in the constitution. There was a growing middle class among mixed-race and black groups, even though large percentages of blacks still lived in poverty. The former townships, a result of forcible relocation by the South Africans under Apartheid, had some paved roads, and cardboard shacks were increasingly replaced by concrete houses.

Of great significance was the development in South Africa itself. Nelson Mandela was freed in early 1990 and negotiations (also with several setbacks) resulted in the end of Apartheid in South Africa, and the conduct of free and fair elections in 1994 led to a black majority government. Many whites threatened to leave the country, but the reconciliation process was, under Mandela, a tool of healing. As far as Namibia was concerned, Walvis Bay, the second largest port in Southern Africa, was finally, after protracted negotiations, returned to the country by South Africa. Namibia’s regional neighborhood thus became increasingly peaceful, with Botswana, a stable democracy in the East, and Angola and Zambia in the North.

During our visit in 2005 we noticed the friendliness and kindness of locals, in the North of the country as well as in the coastal towns. There was, compared to South Africa, a relatively low crime rate, but it was noticeable that the approximately 5 percent whites (both German Namibians and Afrikaaners, i.e. descendents of Boers) held about two thirds of the farmlands. This fact continues to be a source of friction with largely landless black poor.

We were again struck by the beauty and variety of scenery in the thinly settled country. And we visited our German-Namibian friends now living in Swakopmund who complained about the government and the privileges the black elite accorded itself, but led pretty comfortable lives in the German cultural center. German was still widely spoken in Swakopmund and those traditions were preserved.

 

Red Dunes

Lesson 2: Continuous long-term democratic governance is a benefit for the economic and social development in a country. Changes in landownership are slow and continue to be a source of dissatisfaction for the largely black landless population. Multi-racial society is slow in establishing itself after decades of suffering under the system of Apartheid.

 3The observers return – 2019-2020

Last year, my husband and I decided to revisit Namibia. We spent four weeks this December/ January in the country, following our own favorite paths by avoiding the major tourist sites, such as the Etosha pan and the famous Sossusvlei dunes, “counter-programming” as much as possible.

In our first stop, the capital Windhoek, we immediately discovered how much building had taken place: boutique hotels, where none were before, large, clean shopping centers with restaurants and open spaces to sit and eat. It made our own shopping mall in Salzburg look crowded and pushy. The population of Windhoek had grown significantly, and a few sites of the German colonial days had disappeared, but some of our favorite places, such as the Craft Café in the Namibian Arts and Crafts Center, were still functioning and serving healthy food. Tourists were much less visible here: it was a week before Christmas.

In Swakopmund we found a different situation: groups of tourists, both from within the country and from abroad milled around everywhere, restaurants nearly all required reservations and one had to be early to book popular tours, such as a new “fat-bike tour” through the center of town, the black township Mondesa and the dunes. Our personal guide, a young German Namibian university graduate called Chris, took us on one of the most memorable bike tours of my life.

Fatbike in dunes

There seemed to be a recent influx of young whites into Swakopmund, as it clearly is the most popular town with a high quality of life and a multitude of outdoor activities, such as ocean swimming, kayaking, surfing, dune riding and biking. The heat of the inland was not felt here, as cool breezes from the South Atlantic combined with morning fog to make the weather very comfortable.

However, the tour through Mondesa showed us that the majority of the black population still lives in abject poverty: There were few paved roads, problems with garbage removal and heating with scarce wood, which made the air difficult to breathe. The unemployment rate overall is 33 % in the country, but in the townships it is much higher. As in many African countries, HIV continues to be a problem in Namibia: the infection rate is high with 12 percent. While literacy is high with over 90 percent, only 20 % of Namibians had access to the internet in 2016.

While the overall population of Namibia has increased from 1,4 million in 1991 to 2,3 million in 2016, its population density is still one of the lowest in the world: 2.8 people per square km. The large open spaces and beautiful deserts in the National Parks of the Namib Rand and the Namib Naukluft attract predominantly individual travelers and smaller groups; rarely does one see the large tour buses that are a traversing Europe in ever-increasing numbers. While it was often quite hot in the middle of the day in December, when we measured at times 43 degrees celsius, hardy bicyclists on loaded touring bikes were occasionally seen struggling along on windy, dusty roads.

Distant Oryx

Tourism is one of the main sources of income now, but it has not (yet) led to the “overtourism” seen in other popular destinations in Europe and the Americas. There continues to be an ecological consciousness among hosts and their guests, with many farms and lodges taking only smaller groups and supplying themselves through their own wells and solar energy. A major problem from the point of view of locals and travelers is that access to some of the main tourist sites is still on gravel roads that, due to high traffic have turned into washboard-like surfaces. Traffic accidents continue to be one of the major causes of death in the country.

P1010684

15 years ago we did something like this – for three days!

In addition to staying in two remote lodges over Christmas and New Years we revisited an environmental training Centre called NaDEET (Namib Desert Environmental Education Trust) which has, since its inception in the late 1980s, trained tens of thousands of Namibian secondary school children in conservation, sanitation and ecological issues. We were very impressed by how this training center has maintained itself in a remote location of the Namib desert, and how it has expanded its activities since we last visited 15 years ago. See www.nadeet.org.

 

NaDEET

NaDEET camp site

 

Lesson 3: Education and job training are a powerful force for social and economic advancement among people from poor backgrounds. The middle managers in two lodges and one hotel were self-made people with excellent English, whose work, morale and professional demeanor would be a credit to tourist service establishment anywhere in the world.

 

4. Notes on a scandal

As far as politics was concerned, every other person we talked to during our four weeks in the country expressed outrage at the latest (and most shocking) governmental corruption scandal, the so-called “fishrot- scandal” which involved selling Namibian fishing rights to an Icelandic- based multinational company called SAMHERJI, which is now the biggest recipient of fishing quotas off the Namib coast. Two ministers (including the Ministers of Fisheries and the Minister of Justice!) have reportedly been bribed; they and three of their associates were in jail awaiting trial in January. This scandal was uncovered initially by Wikileaks which received detailed information about the bribes from a whistle-blower, a former manager of SAMHERJI with first-hand knowledge. It was also picked up by the newspaper The Namibian and other local papers. The scandal was further analyzed in-depth by Al-Jazeera which produced a striking documentary “Anatomy of a Bribe” (https:Aljazeera.com.anatomy).

The people we spoke to in Namibia were outraged and complained that this wide-spread corrupt sell-out led to the bankruptcy of local companies and caused large-scale loss of jobs among Namibians. The Icelandic company was supposed to pay for infrastructure projects in Namibia which never materialized.

While this scandal received nearly no international attention other than in Iceland and on Al-Jazeera, Namibian newspapers covered it. People apparently demonstrated in front of the Namibian Anti-Corruption Agency which was founded in 2006, forcing the hands of the prosecutors and police. The scandal overshadowed the presidential elections in November 2019, where Swapo, for the first time, lost its absolute majority.

Lesson 4: It is not enough to have regular democratic elections in a country, when the large majority of the population does not have access to the internet or other unbiased information. It is important to strengthen the independent media and watch-dogs such an anti-corruption agency separate and independent from the ruling government. International NGOs such as “Transparency International” need to be engaged in Southern Africa.

5. Summary and outlook 

My long engagement with Namibia has made it possible and instructive to look at the development of  Namibia over four decades, which have spanned the gestation, birth and the coming of  age of independence in Namibia . This retrospective combined with current political analysis showed me that

.    1)  The engagement of Western countries in Southern Africa has significantly deteriorated since the 1970s/1980s. Economically speaking, China is more active in this region than Europe, building desalination plants which are critical to Namibia’s future development, equally much-needed water conduit pipelines, and a new uranium mine. Europe’s absorption with itself and the conflicts in Northern Africa and the Middle East has led it to ignore large parts of Africa which could have been used as examples for the sort of development wished for conflict areas, such as the Sahel.

.    2)  When we look at the involvement of the United States in Southern Africa in the 1970s, under President Carter, the contrast to President Trump, who called African cities “shit-hole towns”, is striking. The United States has clearly shifted its attention to areas of the world where there is little tradition of peaceful resolution of conflicts, such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

.    3)  The future of tourism in Namibia will be at a crossroads when larger groups seek access to remote national parks, surpassing the capacity of this fragile country to absorb these groups without major damage to its environment. Careful planning and continued training in ecology and conservation will be needed, particularly when faced with climate change (drought).

.                We were largely positively impressed by Namibia today.  The apparent state of governance, despite or perhaps because two former government ministers are at present behind bars accused of massive corruption, is impressive. There are states in Europe and in America which are not better governed. We venture to say that, if the rest of Africa were as well managed as Namibia, the entire world could breathe a sigh of relief.

.                We can’t wait to go back!

 

Farewell

.

.

 

 

Power illus

In the Corridors of Samantha Power: A Realist View of Values in International Affairs

a book review essay of The Education of an Idealist, by Samantha Power

 

by Jamie Arbuckle for Peacehawks

 

… the Furies might sometimes sleep, but they were there, always there in the dark corners, and now they were awake and the iron clang of their wings was in her brain …

- Edith Wharton,  The Reef,  (1912)

 Introduction

 

Since the publication in 2002 of her Pulitzer Prize winning book  A Problem from Hell,  which explored American actions and inaction in responding to genocides from Armenia to Kosovo, Samantha Power has been one of the world’s foremost and effective chroniclers of human rights.  In her journalism, in her several books, in her teaching and in her work, she has tirelessly and courageously exposed the deeds and misdeeds of those, mostly governments, who abuse and persecute, mostly their own people.  This, after having devoted so much of her life and her career to the stories of others, is finally her story, and it is well worth reading.

 

This book is, before everything, an autobiography, and that is in a sense a pity. Peacehawks is generally more interested in events than in personalities; we care more about what happened and why than we care about who was there, still less who is to blame. That is not to say those latter are of no consequence, but they are not our primary interest. The presence and the actions of Richard Holbrooke are of lesser consequence to the Dayton Accords which ended the war –  but not the conflict – in Bosnia Hercegovina.  We say it is a pity that this excellent book is so personally autobiographical, because it might otherwise have been a splendid vehicle to educate in more depth about the circumstances and the agencies, the stakeholders and the players in those years preamble to and beginning our young and already-tattered century.

 

We will first review the book she did write – and then we’ll discuss the book we hope she still might write.

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Gorbachev and Reagan signing INF Accord, the White House, 08.12.1987

NUCLEAR FIRST USE: UNLEARNING OUR HISTORY

 

 

- by Jamie Arbuckle, for Peacehawks

 

We learn from history that we do not learn from history.

 

-  Georg Friedrich Wilhelm Hegel

 

When Mikhail S. Gorbachev (1931-) became general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in March 1985, he launched his nation on a dramatic new course. His dual program of “perestroika” (“restructuring”) and “glasnost” (“openness”)[1]introduced profound changes in economic practice, internal affairs and international relations. Within five years, Gorbachev’s revolutionary program swept communist governments throughout Eastern Europe from power.

This transformation also brought an end to the Cold War, which had dominated the affairs of the North Atlantic alliance and of the Warsaw Pact for nearly  two generations. Along that way he successfully negotiated with Ronald Reagan the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Force (INF) Treaty, which  intended to eliminate short, medium and intermediate range (500-3420 kms) nuclear weapons from Europe[2].  By 1991, almost 3000 weapons had been removed, and there followed 10 years of verifications.

 

Now the US government has announced that it will abrogate that treaty.  Russia, which denies accusations of non-compliance, has in its turn announced that they will as well cease to be constrained by the Treaty. And while the Europeans recognize the likelihood of Russian “cheating” on the accord, their preference to negotiate compliance – “trust but verify”[3]- is likely to fall on deaf ears in Washington and in the Kremlin.

 

The seemingly preferred American alternative to the INF, a wider treaty embraced by all nuclear powers (the current treaty involves only the US and Russia), has scant future.  China, a negligible world power in 1987, now has quite different ambitions and senses much greater opportunities[4], while India is very much on the defensive in respect of China’s growing power, and ditto Pakistan of India, and so it will go – or more likely, comprehensive nuclear weapons policy will go as it has always gone: nowhere.  And Russia has already tried that in 2007.  Chafing under a threat largely of his own imagining from the other nuclear states unconstrained by treaty, Vladimir Putin called the INF a Cold War “relic”, and proposed a “global” INF Treaty to the 2008 Conference on Disarmament.

 

During the Cold War the U.S. refused to pledge no first use of nuclear weapons.  In 1961 the Kennedy Administration considered launching a nuclear strike against the Soviet Union, if Khrushchev followed through on his threat of a Soviet takeover of West Berlin. The Joint Chiefs of Staff had determined that West Berlin could not be defended by conventional weapons alone.[5]  Then and since,US strategic policy has been that tactical nuclear weapons would be a potential response to an overwhelming conventional attack. The policy of first use is already being informally cited as essential to the western defense of the Baltics.[6]

 

In 1993 Russia renounced a long-standing Soviet policy which had pledged no first use of nuclear weapons.[7]  This policy reversal in fact brings Russia into line with other nuclear states.

As a 2016 report by the Carnegie Institute put it, “In the eyes of nuclear-weapon states such as the United States and Russia, and even the United Kingdom and France, nuclear weapons are not qualitatively different from conventional weapons. Despite the massive destructive power and lethality of nuclear weapons, they are considered to be usable in ways similar to conventional weapons. …”[8] Indeed, according to a 1978 report by an American assistant secretary of defense, “It is generally acknowledged that atomic weapons are rapidly achieving a conventional status in military planning for national and allied defenses.” And a 1957 book by Henry Kissinger, Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy, helped to present a case for limited nuclear war. By 1971, American Army medium artillery (155 mm) batteries were nuclear-capable.[9]

It is reasonably to be expected that the arms race will now be renewed.  It may further be expected that Europeans – principally of course the Germans – will as a result of this again be asked to accept American nuclear weapons on their soil, with the accompanying complete control of those weapons by US custodians. As this is being written, a NATO summit in Brussels is considering the re-introduction of nuclear weapons in Europe; the Secretary General and at least the defense ministers of Great Britain and of Germany have said that this option must be given full consideration.[10]

 

If there is indeed to be a return to the Cold War nuclear face-off in Europe, it will potentially be even more dangerous than before, as both the major protagonists clearly  believe and have publicly stated that the first use of nuclear weapons is an accepted strategy.

 

The Europeans must not accept this renewal of military tensions in Europe. Germany especially must not again become a repository of nuclear weapons of which they have scant knowledge and over which they have little control. The American military colonization of Europe – particularly of Germany – is not to be repeated. This point is perhaps not lost on the Germans: as recently reported  in our local newspaper, of those polled in Germany as to their perceptions of the greatest threat to their security, 56% identified the United States; North Korea was a distant second.[11]  Euphemisms such as “sub-strategic”, “tactical” and “limited” must be seen through; veiled speech must not be allowed to mask the enormity of what is here contemplated – again.  The Poles in their eagerness to build Fort Trump[12]must be restrained by a centre which – this time – just has to hold.

 

We have studied our history, and we will not be condemned to repeat it.

[1]Seehttp://www.history.com/topics/cold-war/perestroika-and-glasnost (accessed 02.02.2019)

[2]  Gorbachev’s actions also inadvertently set the stage for the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, which dissolved into 15 individual republics. Gorbachev resigned from office on December 25, 1991.

[3]This is a Russian proverb, to which Ronald Reagan was introduced by the American writer Susanne Massie. “The proverb was adopted as a signature phrase by Reagan, who subsequently used it frequently when discussing U.S. relations with the Soviet Union.”  See wikepedia, “trust but verify” (accessed 03.02.2019)

[4]  China’s No First Use of Nuclear Weapons,  by Zhenqiang, Pan, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace – Reports, 28 Oct 2016 (https://www.questia.com/magazine/1P3-4285520441/china-s-no-first-use-of-nuclear-weapons, accessed 02.02.2019). China has from its earliest acquisition of nuclear weapons systems in 1964 steadfastly renounced first use against any no-nuclear nation or nuclear-free zone.  This article seems to conflate “first use” and “first strike.”  They are not the same thing.  Briefly, first use is a response and is defensivein nature and intent; first strike may be pre-emptive and is thus offensive in nature and intent.

[5]”JFK’s First Strike Plan”, by Fed Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly, October 2001, www.atlantic.com (accessed 02.02.2019)

[6]”One way to convince Russia of NATO’s resolve and readiness would be, perhaps, to tighten the link between NATO’s conventional and nuclear forces by integrating both elements in exercises—as NATO did during the Cold War.” “NATO’s Options”, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 28 March 2018 (carnegieendowment.org, accessed 13 February 2019).  Other discussants variously note the current inadequacy of NATO conventional forces in the Baltic, from which conventional wisdom will infer the necessity for “non-strategic” nuclear deterrent, which in turn implies first use.

[7]Russia Drops No-First-Use Pledge on Its Nuclear Weapons,By Daniel Sneider, Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor November 4, 1993, (https://www.csmonitor.com/1993/1104/04011x.html, accessed 02.02.2019)

[8] Zhenqiang, Pan, op cit

[9]The History of the Custody and Deployment of Nuclear Weapons from July 1945 through September 1974, by the Office of the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense (Atomic Energy), February 1978

[10]See zdf.de, “Raketen ohne Kontrolle”, 13 February 2019.

[11]Salzburger Nachrichten, “Deutsche sehen USA als die größte Gefahr”, 14 February 2019

[12]”Speaking with Trump and reporters in the Oval Office on Tuesday, Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, told Trump that he’d like the U.S. to create a permanent military base with that name in Poland — and that Poland would pay more than $2 billion for the project.”  See foxnews.com, 18 September 2018 (accessed 13 February 2019).

Dag Hammarskjold – a Life Retold

Hammarskjold 

A review essay, based on Dag Hammarskjold: Markings of his Life, by Henrik Berggren

 

Reviewed for Peacehawks by Jamie Arbuckle

 

 

You asked for burdens to carry – And howled  when they were placed on your shoulders.

Dag Hammarskjold, Markings

 

 

Introduction

 

On 4 November 1956 the General Assembly of the United Nations requested the Secretary General, who was then Dag Hammarskjold, “to submit a plan for … an emergency international United Nations force to secure and supervise the cessation of hostilities” in the Middle East. Peacekeeping had been born. It was five days before my sixteenth birthday, and I was already a voracious reader and a heavy consumer of news. I said to my father, “I have seen the future, and it has to work.”  My father, who had lived through two World Wars, the Great Depression and the Korean Conflict, was in my memory of those distant days, reserved in his reaction.  But this was to be my world, not his – his work was largely done. Here was the beginning of my adulthood and the grounding in me of my vocation: I was to be a soldier for peace.

 

So for me any talk or remembrance of Dag Hammarskjold is intensely personal, sending me back  to my earliest beginnings, and spanning much of the rest of my professional life, and beyond. The real prime mover of the birth of peacekeeping was Lester B. Pearson, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts (so was Hammarskjold, posthumously), and was later Prime Minister of Canada as my adopted country became one of the leaders of international peacekeeping operations. Shortly after my retirement from the Canadian Army, I met my wife as we both worked at the Lester B. Pearson Canadian International Peacekeeping Training Centre in Nova Scotia. Today on our shelves we each have our heavily annotated copies of Markings,  which we have each carried for  over 50 years.

 

Henrik Berggren’s book Dag Hammarskjold – Markings of his Life is a skilful, entertaining and entirely useful re-telling of the more personal aspects of the life. It is especially important that it is retold afresh in and for this generation, from whom these important events might otherwise slip away.  The book is generously illustrated, affording us a real feel for the personalities and the times.

 

This book might easily be dismissed as hagiography, but Hammarskjold’s was in many respects an exemplary life, and hagiography does not imply inaccuracy. In these days of baseness of aims and personalities, and the almost total absence of international statesmen of character, there is certainly much to be gained from a review of such a strongly moral character, who also got things done, who also delivered on promises.  That the book is so strongly personal in  its scope does suggest to me a mild corrective in relating in somewhat more detail what I regard as the most important events of Hammarskjold’s all-too-brief time, his eight-year ministry (1953-1961). These were, firstly, the events of 1956, when peacekeeping was born, and Hammarskjold defined himself and his job, “for succeeding generations”.  Then we will have more to say on the subject of the birth of peace enforcement operations in the (former Belgian) Congo in 1961, and then their near-disappearance from the UN’s tool kit, for the next more-than 30 years.

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Gorbachev

GORBACHEV:  HIS LIFE; OUR TIMES

 

 

A review essay for Peacehawks, based on Gorbachev – His Life and Times, by William Taubman

by Jamie Arbuckle

 

We learn from history that we do not learn from history.

- Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, 1770-1831

 

 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

Mikhail S. Gorbachev became general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union on 11 March 1985. He was 53 years of age.  In the previous three years his three predecessors had died in office, aged 76, 80 and 79 (respectively). The 12-Member Politburo, when he first joined it in 1980, averaged over 70 years of age.  The winds of change were blowing, and Gorbachev was to be of that wind.

With his inaugural acceptance speech he launched his nation on a dual program of “perestroika” (restructuring) and “glasnost” (openness).  These two concepts, long debated and refined among his closest advisors, introduced profound changes in the governance of the Soviet Union. Among the entirely unintended consequences of this were that, within five years, communist governments throughout Eastern Europe were swept from power.  The Paris Summit of the Conference on Cooperation and Security in Europe (19-21 November 1990) adopted the Charter of Paris for a New Europe and drew the Cold War, which had against all odds remained cold for forty-four years, to a peaceful close.[1] The Soviet Union imploded into 15 individual republics.

This story, which will be broadly familiar to most of you who lived it, is well and skillfully told in Taubman’s book. But we are learning that it is not enough that we tribal elders know the history of our times; it is worthwhile, indeed necessary, that such stories are retold in each generation, so that they not slip away from us under pressure of no less alarming and urgent events of these succeeding days.

I joined the army as the missile gap was being touted and dire warnings sounded; I became a non-commissioned officer in the year of the Berlin Wall; I was commissioned an officer in the year of the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Like many of you, I lived those times, and I can never forget.  But our succeeding generations must not be condemned to relive our times. The key for their future is knowledge: of what happened, the whys, what worked, what didn’t, what might have been avoidable, and what probably wasn’t.  Theirs is an age of clear and present dangers, and knowledge is the only thing that might deliver the society of your children, and your grandchildren, from a repetition of our past mistakes and failures.

The Cold War lasted from 1946 to 1990, and dominated the world as did the two World Wars which preceded it.  And what are our successors to make of all this? More importantly: what are the Trumps and the Putins, products of as well as successors to those times, making of them now? It seems to us that sabre-rattling has replaced diplomacy, and zero-sum games have replaced negotiations.  So books like this are important, and this one is a particularly well written record of what we must not forget, for “those who do not study history are condemned to relive it.”

But I want in this review essay to get beyond an appraisal of this book, excellent as it is.

The striking thing about Gorbachev’s “challenge” (as Time called it in their issue of December 19, 1988) was not that it was not welcomed by the audience for which it was intended- that was natural and was foreseen, but rather how negatively it was greeted in the West, whose fondest hopes for a peaceful end to the Cold War were being realized. And it is this reception of glasnost in the US, in NATO and generally by western analysts, on which I want to focus this article.

Western defense strategy was based on two pillars: the missile gap, and the conventional force gap. Because of these mythical gaps, western defenses were to be for a  half-century based on a threat of first use of nuclear weapons by NATO.  This highly dangerous policy is still in place today, but the bases for it, the famous gaps, were never more than worst-case imaginings, and they are even less valid today.

We now need to mind those gaps.

 

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ONCE MORE ON THE SHOULDERS OF A GIANT: THE PEACE GUERILLA HANDBOOK*

- a review of a book by Ben Hoffman,

reviewed for Peacehawks  by Jamie Arbuckle

 

Introduction

In my intermittent “tours” as a peacekeeper, I learned little of substance about peacekeeping. I had never opened the UN Charter, I knew nothing of the UN, and I neither understood nor thought much about peace. It was like the weather: if it was nice I enjoyed it, but I was preparing for storms. I became an NCO as the Berlin Wall was being built; I became an officer during the Cuban Missile Crisis – I thought my concerns well placed.  If I had any knowledge of the principles of peacekeeping (and I knew a lot about the principles of war), my knowledge was limited to some self-evident truths, like

  1. Less is less;
  2. Missions creep;
  3. Nothing is impossible if someone else is doing it.

That complacency in ignorance was pretty typical of my generation of military officers – none of it was wrong, no one to my knowledge had any more mature principles to offer; peacekeeping was, after all, “no job for a soldier.”

Then, out of uniform for the first time since my teens, I went to work at the Lester B. Pearson Canadian International Peacekeeping Training Centre (the PPC), where the scales were gently but firmly struck from my eyes.

In my first experience there, I worked with Ben Hoffman on a course on mediation and negotiations for peacekeepers. I had, like most of us at that time, and not just those of us in uniform, been engaged in this sort of thing almost throughout my career – and, throughout my career, remained nearly totally ignorant of what I was doing, and how to set about doing it.  In the next five years, mostly at the PPC and often working with Ben Hoffman, I learned more about peace than I had learned in the past nearly 40 years in uniform. Well, they say the first 50 years are always the hardest.

Just the sort of thing which should have been available to all of us in peace operations, is exemplified in this very small book by Ben Hoffman, The Peace Guerilla Handbook.

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SAVING SUCCEEDING GENERATIONS

Nolde's Soldiers 

“Soldaten”, Emil Nolde, 1913

 

 

Introduction

 We have received the following bulletin from the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) in Vienna, entitled “Message on International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers”, issued by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Gueterres, and we want to share it with you.

Following the bulletin, we will have some  comments on some of the points made by the Secretary-General.

The Bulletin

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Fog of Peace

The Fog of Peace: A Memoir of International Peacekeeping in the 21st Century

 

by Jean-Marie Guehenno[1]

 

Reviewed by James V. Arbuckle, for Peacehawks

 

Introduction

 

Jean-Marie Guehenno was appointed United Nations Under-Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations (USG PKO) in 2000, and held that position until 2008.  A “scholar-diplomat”, as one blurbist has characterized him, he was until  his appointment without direct experience of the United Nations.

 

The Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) was created in 1992 from the Department of Special Political Affairs, which had been responsible for PKOs since their inception in 1948.  The then USG for that Department, Marrack Goulding, assumed the leadership of the new DPKO until he was succeeded by Kofi Annan in 1993. Annan was replaced by Bernard Miyet of France in 1997 when Annan  became Secretary-General[2].  Since then all DPKO USGs have been French, and on 1 April  of this year Jean-Pierre Lacroix will replace Herve Ladsus.

 

The book is engagingly written, and conveys well the feel of the immediacy of high diplomacy, but careful readers may find some things missing.

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Video

CHINA GOES MODERN – BUT MIND THE GAPS

 

 

a book review essay for Peacehawks, by James V. Arbuckle

 

The books reviewed in this essay are:

The Man from Beijing, by Henning Mankell, Harvill Secker, London, 2008

Lost in Translation, by Nicole Mones, Delta, New York, 1998

Forbidden Fruit – 1980 Beijing (A Memoir), by Gail Pellett, Van Dam, New York, 2016

 

 

INTRODUCTION

The three books discussed here, two novels and a memoir, give us differing but intersecting views of the colossus of our age: China.  The two works of fiction, one a crime novel and the other a romance, are in fact both historical novels: both are closely linked to facts, but both provide a degree of intimacy and insight that  straight historical work usually cannot.  However, as we will note later, the ever-engaging Gail Pellett achieves a novelistic immediacy and intimacy in her Memoir.

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Caught?

Still caught in the crossfire? UN peace operations and their information capacities

  by Ingrid A. Lehmann

(Editor’s Note: This article is a version of a chapter in the book, Communication and Peace: Managing an emerging field, Eds. Hoffmann and Hawkins, Routledge, London, 2015)

Introduction

When the United Nations launched its first peacekeeping operations in the 1950s, the concept of using third party military units to create conditions for peace was in its infancy. Inevitably, media reporting of those first peace operations was scanty. Public impressions of these efforts at conflict resolution were covered by relatively few print media and only some television news programs.

However, conflicts in the 1990s in the Balkans, in Somalia and in Rwanda occurred nearly simultaneously and attracted 24/7 instant news coverage around the world. UN peace operations which were enmeshed in these new wars were thus propelled into the limelight. The media was systematically used by parties to the conflict to propagate hatred and violence, putting international peacekeepers increasingly on the defensive. Consequently, UN operations deployed in these conflicts received much unfavorable publicity and were, in more ways than one, caught in the crossfire (Lehmann 1999, 2009; Alleyne 2003; Loewenberg 2006; Lindley 2007; Abusaad 2008; Egleder 2012).

Finally, the United Nations itself had to recognize the power of communication as a critical support for its peacekeeping operations. Beginning in 2000 a new peacekeeping doctrine evolved following the issue of the Panel on United Nations Peace Operations – the so-called “Brahimi Report” – which also addressed the question of public information capacity. Simultaneously, substantial reforms of the UN’s own Information Department (DPI) were undertaken by senior management under Secretary-General Kofi Annan. These reforms resulted in a series of policy papers and guidance notes which established a strategic approach to managing information during peacekeeping and post-conflict peacebuilding. Throughout this process, which lasted several years, strategic communication was the declared goal of the UN in which the concept of peace communication  was implicit rather than explicit.

In order to analyze the effectiveness of the new communication policy this chapter will look at three peacekeeping operations where the UN’s ability to build public support and respond to criticism was tested:

1.   The UN operation in Kosovo: “Peace Journalism” at work?

2. The UN’s role in the cholera crisis in Haiti (2010–2013): failed scandal- 
management; and

3.  Sexual abuse and exploitation by UN peacekeepers in the Congo.

The comparative brevity of this article will not allow a comprehensive analysis of the public dimensions of those peacekeeping operations. By selecting critical incidents or crises for the missions concerned we will look at how these challenging situations were handled, and to what effect.

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Peaceweaving

Weaving a Peace?

PEACEWEAVING – Shamanistic insights into mediating the transformation of power, by Ben Hoffman, January 2013 – a review for Peacehawks, by Neil Patton

Peaceweaving is not your typical book on mediation. And Ben Hoffman is not your typical mediator. Hoffman has mediated a wide range of conflicts. From commercial agreements to prison hostage situations to disputes between violent African Warlords, his career has taken him from posh boardrooms to the naked risks of undisclosed jungle encampments.

Hoffman provides a thorough overview of the classic and de rigeur tools and tactics of the mediation trade, but his unique addition to the discipline is where he seeks to elevate it to a level on par with Maslowian self-actualization. Peaceweaving is an impressive and an intensely personal marrying of two concepts that just don’t normally roll off the tongue in any natural sequence: mediation and shamanism. Yes, shamanism. Not your typical mediation book. Not your typical mediator.

Hoffman’s is a very personal narrative of his journey through a vast mediation career which parallels his own evolution into “Shaman cum Mediator”. Yes, a shaman as mediator. Seems a bit far out there, but it is authentic, and it does have value for the profession.

For most practitioners in the conflict resolution field this might seem a bit of a reach, even implausible. For the hard core realists, this will be seen as pure flakiness, naivety wrapped in new age crystals and prayer flags. He speaks freely of his role as a mediator to eliminate negative energies and to move the conflicted parties’ relationships towards one of “power with” the other party and away from “power over” the other party.

Hoffman is aspirational, unbelievably aspirational. But this is an approach that seeks to be transformational, not just adding a new tactical process to the conflict resolution field. Hoffman’s career has led him to great challenges. This book is not so much about labour disputes and trade deals. Hoffman seeks to bring a new way of thinking to the most violent and protracted disputes of our times, and the ones just around the corner. This is a man who has looked straight into the eyes of African war lords who were responsible for mass killings, abducting children, and child soldiers, and he didn’t blink (though he does admit to suffering from intense internal anxiety from time-to-time).

What will be comforting to traditionalists and realists who dare to read deeply enough into Hoffman’s approach is that he understands that power is at the core of all conflict, and that failure to understand this is a critical error for any mediator at any level. It is all about power, but for Hoffman it is also about transforming how the parties relate to and use their power. Hoffman’s view is that the greatest challenge is to transform the parties and their relationship with their power and the power dynamics in the conflict. This is where he seeks to transform the art of mediation. In this regard Hoffman’s understanding of the challenges in mediation is spot on. He gets it: it is all about power and the parties’ own beliefs about their relative power. He is no naïf in this regard.

Ultimately, Hoffman asks: what is my role as mediator? For him it can be as ambitious as seeking to alter and transform the core values of the parties in conflict. Pretty aspirational stuff (US foreign policy has been known to try the same). In Hoffman’s view not all mediators will answer this question the same. Most will not likely answer like Hoffman. After all, he seeks to weave peace in the great violent conflicts of our times. The challenge of a commercial dispute does not raise the same transformational goal for him, nor should it. That’s about commerce, not peace. Hoffman is dealing in human lives, human dignity, and transforming parties upward from years and decades of violence.

His proposal that mediators elevate their role to that of a shaman is indeed daring, bold, and even unthinkable. But that’s what true visionaries and innovators do. A man on the moon in 1940? Unthinkable. The Berlin wall coming down in 1970? Unthinkable. Film clips and photos sent from mobile phone to mobile phone in 1980? Unthinkable. Mediator as Shaman? …unthinkable…?

 

Neil Patton is the co-founder and proprietor of Pre-think Inc. (see http://www.pre-think.com). Neil has worked in negotiations for over 20 years. He has been a chief negotiator, strategist, coach, and trainer. His practice covers a variety of negotiations (collective bargaining, procurement, sales/marketing, commercial contracts) and sectors (utilities, telecoms, health care, education, mining, military, social services, retail, land development).
Ben Hoffman co-founded the Canadian International Institute of Applied Negotiation in 1992 (see http://www.ciian.org). CIIAN is dedicated to the prevention and resolution of destructive conflict and to building sustainable peace at local, national, and international levels. Ben is the author of several important books on the subjects of negotiation and mediation. Ben has been, if not the official Peacehawks shaman, certainly our guru for as long as we’ve known him – and each other.
Question of Peace

GIVING PEACE LITERATURE A CHANCE: a book review

The Question of Peace in Modern Political Thought, Toivo Koivukoski and Edward Tabachnick, eds.. Wilfrid Laurier University Press, Waterloo, Ontario, 2015

- by Jamie Arbuckle

Introduction

At a very early stage in my career as a soldier, I had amassed a very comprehensive collection of classical war literature: Sun Tzu, du Picq, the Brodies, Ropp, Earle, Liddell-Hart, Keegan, Taylor, and more, spanning more than two-and-one-half millenia. I thought I knew what war had been, was now and might  be.  Nearly half a century later, I have them all still on my shelves, and have often referred to several of them in these pages.

I have never read a book about peace, and I don’t actually know much about it. So the arrival of this book for this review was, for me, timely. Perhaps for you as  well?

What is peace? Is it merely the absence of war? Or is it the absence of violent conflict? Was the period between the two World Wars a peace? Is scale involved, that is to say, was the NATO-led action in Serbia and in Bosnia-Hercegovina in 1999 a war (it is commonly called one)? Can we have peace without justice, or must those responsible for unjust wars be pursued beyond the cessation of hostilities?  And is there such a thing as a just war?

I think we need some answers to these questions and more, and I hoped this book would help me to understand peace at least as well as I once thought I understood war.

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Media Strategy in Peace Processes

- by Ingrid Lehmann

Introduction

Many diplomats and others involved in the mediation of international conflicts tend to be reluctant to publicize details of their work and may prefer to stay entirely out of the media’s limelight. While this approach has its merits during some negotiations, particularly in the early stages, in today’s 24/7 information environment nothing stays confidential for long. It only is a matter of time before information leaks, sometimes at the initiative of the parties themselves. Increasingly, mediators find that an active media strategy becomes an essential element of their work. Such a public-information strategy will aim to build public support for the peace process, shape the public image of the international negotiator and avoid negative fallout from uncontrolled and misleading public exposure.

In 21st-century conflicts, there are not only professional reporters covering a conflict or emerging crisis, but countless interested observers. Some may be citizens ‘bearing witness’, who can create a ‘story’ through a short message, photo or video posted on the internet. Such news items can be picked up by the traditional media and may rapidly take on a life of their own. (1) For mediators it thus becomes vital to monitor relevant information channels and attempt to manage the news flow about their work in a proactive way. Seeking the ‘information high ground’, as in defining and enunciating the basic issues in the negotiations and avoiding unnecessary and contentious details, ought to become one of the goals of all active mediators.

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UN Charter
Aside

The Charter of the United Nations: A Primer

 

Introduction

In the course of a 37-year military career, which included UN peacekeeping missions in Cyprus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Croatia, I never once read or even saw a copy of the Charter of the United Nations. I don’t know of any other officers who did, nor did I ever even hear it discussed. And, as for our understanding of our employment and of our missions, that was pretty much it for my generation of officers. And still it seems today that much current debate, even at very high levels, is little better informed and no less careless of details than were my generation.

This is just not good enough. Ill informed debate is not useful discussion, and we have learned the hard way that unrealistic expectations produce ill judgement, which can and often does lead to self-fulfilling prophecies of failure.

To the extent that the United Nations is the pre-eminent system and authority for, inter-alia, the maintenance of international peace and security, and to the extent that we really do care about these issues, we need to know the Organization better, and there is no better way to know this Organization than through familiarity with its mighty Charter. (As you can see from the illustration above, I have since put a lot of miles on my copy of the Charter, even, as you can also see, while I was in fact working Chapter VIII.)

The Charter of the UN is a remarkable document. Drafted in 1945, and entering into force just six months after the drafting, it has been amended on only four occasions, the last over 40 years ago.

We will in this article describe and explore the following Chapters of the Charter of the United Nations:

Chapter I: Purposes and Principles
Chapter III:  Organs
Chapter IV: The General  Assembly
Chapter V: The Security Council
Chapter VI: Pacific Settlement of Disputes
Chapter VII: Action with Respect to Threats to the Peace, Breaches of the Peace, and Acts of Aggression
Chapter VIII: Regional Arrangements

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stones in Brazil

MEDITATING ON MEDIATING

LINES WRITTEN A FEW METRES ABOVE UNTERWASSERSTRASSE[i]:

Introduction and Background

The end of the Cold War did not, as we then so fondly hoped, usher in an era of peace. Although interstate wars may seem to have become relatively rare, intra-state conflict has become nearly constant and largely intractable. Armed force alone is of little value in resolving these lower-level but deadly conflicts – and intrastate wars have since the early Nineties been characterized by sickening casualty tolls.[ii] Alternate means of management and resolution of conflicts by non-violent methods have therefore been widely sought. These have, in some cases, offered real hope for the mitigation and even the prevention of conflict.

A resultant interest in the tools of mediation and negotiation continues to grow. The entire field which is generally referred to as alternate dispute resolution seems to present an attractive soft power tool box for the restoration and maintenance of peace. It has become an essential measure for containing, preventing and (hopefully) resolving conflict – non violently.

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A BOOK WITH A VIEW: A REVIEW OF ROSE OF SARAJEVO, By Ayse Kulin

Kindle edition, published by AmazonCrossing, Seattle
Originally published by Remzi Kitabevi, Istanbul, 1999
Reviewed for Peacehawks by Jamie Arbuckle

Introduction

The author describes her book succinctly and accurately in her introduction:

This book tells the story of the heroic and honorable people who survived the horrendous war in Bosnia that took place from April 5, 1992 to February 26, 1996, during which Sarajevo was held under siege for 1,395 days, without regular electricity, communications or water. Ten thousand six hundred Bosniaks – of whom 1,600 were children – lost their lives. Those who survived were pressured to accept the Dayton Agreement.   With this treaty, 51 per cent of Bosnia was left to Bosnia and Herzegovina, while the Serbs, who comprised only 34 percent of the population before the war, gained 49 per cent of the land. (location 31).

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INTO AFRICA – REALLY!

A review for Peacehawks of Sandpaper: A Story of Africa, by Angela Mackay. 2013.
- by Jamie Arbuckle

Angela Mackay has written a simply marvelous novel of Africa. It is perhaps the best book I’ve read this year, and it takes us truly into an Africa we think we know, or at least we think we know of: the post-colonial legacy of exploitation and neglect, and the post-independence period of corruption and incompetence have combined to produce a dystopia characterized by poverty, ignorance and protracted internal strife. Life is nasty, brutish and short, and we’ve heard it all before – we might even have been there. But when you have laid this book down, you will at last know how little you knew.

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CAN CONGO BE SAVED FROM ITSELF?

Panel 3 of a Triptych for Peacehawks, by Jamie Arbuckle

Introduction

On 6 November, the Army of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), with support from UN, Tanzanian and South African forces, defeated the rebel group M23. On 5 December, Nelson Mandela died.  In one month, then, we have been confronted with the worst and the best of sub-Saharan Africa.  Which is the true picture? Which represents the future of Africa? Are conflicts to be peacefully resolved, which we might call the Nelson Mandela Future Model, or are conflicts to be endlessly and brutally protracted, which we might call the Central African Future Model?  Is there hope, or do we face merely a grim preparation for more of the same, in Africa south of the Sahara?

Is the Congo still at the heart of darkness, or is it the birthplace of the first great international human rights movement of the 20th Century?[1]

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WHAT AND HOW WE LEARN FROM HISTORY – OR ELSE

Panel 1 of a Triptych for Peacehawks, by Jamie Arbuckle 

The knowledge-toolkit of a historically and politically aware citizen of this century will have several essential compartments – you won’t leave home without them. These may differ widely among us, depending on many personal and collective factors of our respective cultures and origins. In my tool kit, for example, there are five essential compartments, and they are: the American Revolution; the Napoleonic Wars; the American Civil War; World War I and the Russian Revolution; and the Holocaust – how it started, and what it took to stop it. So my world, perhaps like yours, has been largely shaped by wars. That is perhaps less true of those younger than I, unless you found the Cold War a lot hotter than I – many Europeans certainly did.  But there is for me a sixth compartment which I suspect we nearly all share, and that one contains the creation and the workings of the United Nations, and the revolutionary effect the Organization has had on the conduct of international affairs.
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UNO: WHAT TRIBE IS THAT?

Panel 2 of a triptych: A book review for Peacehawks of Hammarskjoeld: a Life, by Roger Lipsey, The University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, 2013. 738 pp; illus, footnotes, indexed, bibliography.

by Jamie Arbuckle

Introduction

There have of course been several books about Dag Hammarskjoeld, the second Secretary-General of the United Nations. The most authoritative was Sir Brian Urquhart’s Hammarskjoeld[1] first published in 1972; Urquhart combined immediacy – he was there – with scholarship. More recently (2011), there has been the extremely useful and readable work by Manuel Froehlich. [2]

Do we need another biography of Dag Hammarskjoeld? As we wrote in the first panel of this triptych[3], we believe that there are some stories that are so important to us that they need to be retold afresh in each generation, and there is no redundancy in the retelling. Each generation needs to hear, in its own voice and in its own time, the vital stories of the times. The past is not necessarily fate, but it is often prologue. And living in history is like map reading: if you know where you were and how you have gone, you should know where you are, and you can have a good idea where you are going. Updating the map from time to time can never be of no use.

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PEACEKEEPING IN OUR TIME: PAST THE AGE OF CONSENT?

By Jamie Arbuckle, for Peacehawks

Introduction

Have you heard the one about how many Peacekeepers it takes to change a light bulb?

Actually, any number will do – but the light bulb has to want to change.

To know where we are going, we need to know where we are, and to know that, we usually need to know where we have been.  To look ahead, then, we often need to look back.

One of the most critical factors in modern peace operations has, since the creation of the United Nations, been the issue of consent to and the continuing support for an operation.  The  UN is hard-wired for consensual operations; it’s in the DNA, in the Charter:

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CHILD SOLDIERS: WEAPONS OF CHOICE, BUT WHOSE CHOICE?

A book review for Peacehawks:
They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children, by Senator Romeo Dallaire, Arrow Books, London, 2010 (307 pp, 12.07 LBS)

By Jamie Arbuckle

INTRODUCTION

Canadian Senator and retired General Romeo Dallaire, the author of the best-selling Shake Hands With the Devil (Random House Canada, 2003), and the original commander of the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Rwanda in 1994, has written another book, just as timely, urgent and compelling as his first.  Peacehawks  thinks it important that we inform you of this book as quickly as we can – I finished reading it an hour ago.

My life and my career have been very short on living heroes: Robert Rogers died almost a century and a half, and T.E. Lawrence five years, before I was born; I was 22 years old when Dag Hammarskjold was killed, and 23 when JFK was assassinated; my father died when I was only 32.  I didn’t expect to have any more heroes in my direct experience of life.  But I have been rarely privileged to know, even briefly to work with, Romeo Dallaire, and he is every inch a hero for our so dusty, spiteful and divided time. I thought you needed to know my view of the author as you read this review.

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WITH LAWRENCE IN VALHALLA

A book review essay for Peacehawks by Jamie Arbuckle

… the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with eyes wide open, to make it so.  This I did.

T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom

Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia, by Michael Korda (Harper Collins, New York, 2010. Ilus, 762 pp. $35.00)

Other books discussed in this essay:

Seven Pillars of Wisdom, by Lawrence of Arabia (Hazel Watson and Viney Ltd, Aylesbury, Bucks, 1926. Illus, 700 pp [Penguin Vers.])

Lawrence and the Arabs, by Robert Graves (Jonathan Cape, London, 1927. Illus, 454 pp)

Lawrence of Arabia, by Basil H. Liddell Hart (Da Capo Press, New York, 1937, Illus, 406 pp)

Introduction

Did we really need another bio of Lawrence? Well, the most recent of the several, Hero, by Michael Korda is, I think, the best of the bunch, and for me it has been worth the wait.

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REVIEW OF “RESTREPO”: WHEN A PICTURE IS NOT WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS

Restrepo, 2010, a film by Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington.
Reviewed for Peacehawks by Jamie Arbuckle

It is a characteristic of our very advanced communications media that the medium is often not the message, and sometimes contains almost no message at all. This film is one such non-message.

The intention of the film seems to be to accompany the book, War, by Sebastian Junger. Junger is a skilled writer with a strong sense of contemporary history and is well known for his narrative skills, both of which are amply displayed in his book. War presents the operations of Battle Company, 2nd Parachute Infantry Battalion of the 173rd Airborne Infantry Brigade in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan from May 2007 to July 2008. (The other companies in the Battalion are called “Chosen” and “Destined” – the irony, as in so much of the terminology used here, is certainly unintentional.) In particular, the movie tells inter alia the story of the Second Platoon of Battle Company in combat outpost Restrepo, which was named for a very popular medic, Juan Restrepo, and which was established shortly after he was killed in action in Afghanistan.

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