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 Ingrid Lehmann
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.
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?