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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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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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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book3
Aside

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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