Interventions: A Life in War and Peace

In This Review

Interventions: A Life in War and Peace
By Kofi Annan
Penguin Press, 2012
512 pp. $36.00

Annan devotes much of his memoir to the problems of international peacekeeping, which were central to his career, first as assistant secretary-general of the United Nations for peacekeeping operations, from 1993 to 1994, and later as UN secretary-general, from 1997 to 2006. In recounting some of the major conflicts of the recent past, his book provides a sensible, often humane defense of the critical importance of multilateral diplomacy. Recounting the UN’s checkered role in troubled places, such as Somalia in the early 1990s, Rwanda in 1994, and Darfur in the early years of this century, he laments that a lack of resources and power prevents the UN from securing peace. Annan views the Western powers, and the United States in particular, as the primary culprits for this state of affairs. He repeatedly implies that greater resources would have allowed the UN to achieve its objectives, although he does not specify exactly what the organization would have done differently. A wide variety of powerful figures who do not share his vision come in for frank criticism, from John Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the un during the George W. Bush administration, to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

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