A book review essay based on The Greek Revolution 1821 and the Making of Modern Europe, by Mark Mazower, pub. Allen Lane, 2021.
Jamie Arbuckle for Peacehawks
Last year was the bicentenary of the outbreak of the Greek War of Independence. As the war lasted until 1829, we will be observing many more such anniversaries in the next few years and, as though we were able to witness the birth of an ancient star, so we will, if we are looking closely, be able to revisit the birth of modern Europe. But if we look still more closely at that decade of two hundred years ago, we may see much more: the emergence of public opinion as a force in political affairs, and we will see also the birth of humanitarian relief agencies as significant actors. Moreover we may see how such intervention became a major contribution to conflict management in our times.
Mark Mazower has written an outstanding book of near contemporary history. The book is highly and meticulously detailed, and is yet an enjoyable read. Those new to this material will be engaged and challenged; those with some familiarity with Greece will be delighted and refreshed by this book.
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.
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:
The responsibility for the conduct of states towards their people has long been a subject of controversy. None of any outsider’s business, said Hitler in 1933 (to the League of Nations), and Stalin in 1948 (to the drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights). However, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by the General Assembly (GA) of the United Nations on 10 December 1948, and changed forever the concept of the relationship of a state to its people, and its responsibility for them.