Courtesy Reuters

The Mark of Bosnia: Boutros-Ghali's Reign of Indifference

‘I wondered if the train I was on was that of the United Nations or the League of Nations,’ said Tadeusz Mazowiecki, a former prime minister of Poland, when he resigned in protest in 1995 from his assignment as the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in the former Yugoslavia. ‘I want to make the leaders of the United Nations think,’ declared the decent man who walked away from the spin and the complacency and evasions of the United Nations’ Bosnia policy. Boutros Boutros-Ghali’s essay proves that the world body and its leader have yet to face up to what they have wrought in Bosnia (‘Global Leadership After the Cold War,’ March/April 1996).

Readers of Boutros-Ghali’s piece will, of course, have understood its purpose. It is the clearest statement yet of his bid for a second term as secretary-general, the rationale for his quiet but relentless campaign, which has been in the works for some time. (The secretary-general, born in 1922, had said that because of his age, one term would suffice, but that was the promise of his first term.) As a campaign statement, his piece is remarkably transparent, even embarrassingly honest. Begone the restraints of the faceless international civil service, and begone those acronyms of international organizations. The pronoun ‘I’ appears 24 times in the essay. All is well in the realm. The books have been balanced, the organization ‘streamlined’ and ‘rationalized.’ The international conferences held during his tenure have been ‘new and different’; they have been ‘cumulative’; they have been ‘linked.’ U.N. peacekeeping has been exemplary. Boutros-Ghali has endured slings and arrows and has at times suffered as the scapegoat for the failures of member states, but he has labored on for the causes of an international civil service and an independent secretary-general.

One will look in vain for a single reference to Bosnia. (There is a passing reference to war crimes tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda.) Bosnia was never permitted to break into last year’s

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