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)
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.
by Jean-Marie Guehenno
Reviewed by James V. Arbuckle, for Peacehawks
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. 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.
Panel 3 of a Triptych for Peacehawks, by Jamie Arbuckle
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?
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
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 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. 
Do we need another biography of Dag Hammarskjoeld? As we wrote in the first panel of this triptych, 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.
- by Jamie Arbuckle, for Peacehawks
What’s Wrong With the United Nations, and How to Fix It
By Thomas Weiss,
Polity Press, 292 pp., $19.45, 2009
The UN … is essentially the collective agent of its member states. Many of the UN’s organizational incapacities could be corrected by additional resources from its member states, who devote but a tiny fraction of the resources they spend on national security to collective action under the umbrella of the United Nations.
– Peacemaking and Peacekeeping for the New Century, Ottunnu and Doyle, Rowan and Littlefield, New York, 1996
This is an interesting book about the United Nations, and an impressive effort to get beyond the usual procedural and structural tinkering which has characterized and limited most efforts to “improve” the U.N. Thomas Weiss is certainly well qualified to write this book. He combines the skills and the background of a practitioner and a scholar: he served with the U.N. Secretariat for a decade, but has also distinguished himself as an academic for over 25 years, during which he has been a profound student of and a prolific writer, researcher and teacher about, the U.N.
Presentation to the Blue Helmet Forum Austria
4-6 June 2009
National Sovereignty, Domestic Jurisdiction and Consent:
The Last Refuges of Scoundrels
By James V. Arbuckle, O.M.M., C.D.
Shall I say what I mean?
Mean what I say?
– Marianne Faithful
This paper is NOT JUST about peace operations in Chad; rather it is about ALL peace operations throughout the history of peacekeeping:
The issue of consent to an operation is central to the mandating and the conduct of all interventions. The post-Cold War surge in intra-national conflicts has increased the importance of this issue, as interventions almost inevitably encounter issues of national sovereignty. In Sudan, especially in the West Darfur region of Sudan, we see today most clearly the ongoing struggle between, on the one hand, national sovereignty, domestic jurisdiction and “host” consent and, on the other hand, a clear case of a need – some would say a responsibility – for outsiders to intervene.