The Best Intentions: Kofi Annan and the UN in the Era of American World Power

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9780747587286: The Best Intentions: Kofi Annan and the UN in the Era of American World Power

A man who had won the Nobel Peace Prize, who was widely counted one of the greatest UN Secretary Generals, was nearly hounded from office by scandal. Indeed, both Annan and the institution he incarnates were so deeply shaken after the Bush Administration went to war in Iraq in the face of opposition from the Security Council that critics, and even some friends, began asking whether this sixty-year-old experiment in global policing has outlived its usefulness. Do its failures arise from its own structure and culture, or from a clash with an American administration determined to go its own way in defiance of world opinion?  James Traub, a New York Times Magazine contributor who has spent years writing about the UN and about foreign affairs, delves into these questions as no one else has done before. Traub enjoyed unprecedented access to Annan and his top aides throughout much of this traumatic period. He describes the despair over the Oil-for-Food scandal, the deep divide between those who wished to accommodate American critics and those who wished to confront them, the failed attempt to goad the Security Council to act decisively against state-sponsored ethnic cleansing in Sudan. And he recounts Annan’s effort to respond to criticism with sweeping reform—an effort which ultimately shattered on the resistance of U.S. Ambassador John Bolton. In The Best Intentions, Traub recounts the dramatically entwined history of Kofi Annan and the UN from 1992 to the present. In Annan he sees a conscientious idealist given too little credit for advancing causes like humanitarian intervention and an honest broker crushed between American conservatives and Third World opponents—but also a UN careerist who has absorbed that culture and can not, in the end, escape its limitations.

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About the Author:

James Traub has been a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine since 1998, where he writes about US foreign policy, the UN, race, and education. He has written three books, including City On A Hill and The Devil's Playground. He lives in New York City.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One 
A Greater Magna Carta . . .
 
Institutions of global order are an American invention. A nation that occupied and swiftly conquered a continent of its own had little need of the intricate and perpetually shifting web of alliances that had bound European sovereigns since the Peace of Westphalia in 1648; a nation that understood itself as having been formed and guided by Providence naturally viewed its national interests in universalistic terms—even as it asserted its dominion, brutally at times, over that continent. American leaders scorned the calculations of a Metternich or a Palmerston—the philosophy known as raison d’état—as cynical and corrupt. And when that old order came to an abrupt and shocking end with World War I, a hideous and thoroughly avoidable conflict that made the old treaty system look like a death pact, the United States, which had emerged from the war as the world’s supreme power, was prepared to impose its idealistic vision on the exhausted combatants. A war that had begun on European terms would thus end on American ones. President Woodrow Wilson, the scholar and Chris-tian moralist who had led a reluctant America into war to save Europe from itself, sought a peace in which the victors would not carve up the spoils and territories of the vanquished but rather would band together in a League of Nations designed to end war itself.
 
The League failed, of course, but not only because the U.S. Congress refused to ratify it. The body had been designed as a kind of circuit-breaking institution to prevent nations from marching blindly into a war none of them really wanted. But that nineteenth-century diplomatic minuet had disappeared forever in Flanders field. The authoritarian and militaristic states that arose in the ensuing vacuum were bent on crushing weaker neighbors or picking off helpless colonies. Only the threat of a greater force could stop these aggressors, and the League, which had no such mechanism, proved helpless in the face of Japanese, Italian, and German expansionism.
 
Planning for a new organization began inside President Franklin Roosevelt’s State Department in 1939, more than two years before the United States was drawn into World War II. To FDR, an earthier and more tough-minded figure than Wilson, the League demonstrated the absurdity of trying to counter aggression by summoning men to their better angels. Wilson had rightly recognized that only America could, or would, subordinate its own supremacy and limit its own freedom of action in order to ensure world peace. But FDR’s vision was to place might at the disposal of right. The president was open to all sorts of variations in design, but he “adhered unswervingly,” as the historian Stephen C. Schlesinger writes, “to one central realpolitik tenet derived from his disillusion with the League’s enforcement operations, that the four powers—China, the Soviet Union, Great Britain, and the United States—should act as policemen and provide security for any world organization.”
 
FDR became the driving force behind the establishment of the United Nations, a name he had dreamed up soon after Pearl Harbor, when he had gathered twenty-six nations in Washington to sign a United Nations Declaration vowing to defeat the Axis powers. By the end of 1943, he had persuaded Stalin and Churchill to accept a world body with the “Four Policemen,” as they were known, at its heart. In August 1944, American, Russian, British, and Chinese diplomats met at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington to flesh out the proposal. Working from a State Department draft, they agreed on an organization that would have an eleven-member Security Council with five permanent members. (France, second only to Germany among the Continental powers, had by now been added to the original four.) The Big Five would have a right of veto over all substantive matters—a critical distinction from the League, which depended on consensus and thus effectively awarded the veto to all. A General Assembly consisting of all members would discuss non-security questions, and the whole would be guided by a professional secretariat.
 
As the war drew to a close, Roosevelt became consumed with establishing the world body. In February 1945, he put his increasingly frail health at risk by traveling to Yalta, on the Black Sea, to meet with Churchill and Stalin and overcome Stalin’s remaining objections to the UN. Several weeks later, in one of the last interviews he gave before his death, Roosevelt told a New York Times reporter that “all his hopes of success in life and immortality in history were set on getting an international organization in motion.” It’s just as well for Roosevelt that his place in history does not depend on the UN, but he is, without question, the institution’s progenitor.
 
The signatories of the United Nations Declaration, in the global equivalent of a constitutional convention, gathered in San Francisco on April 25, 1945, to write the UN Charter. The world press descended on this charming seaside city and relayed breathlessly to readers the portentous debates over the hatching of this great instrument of peace. The issues that most agitated the delegates mattered less than the very public narrating of the debate, for during those weeks, and in the ensuing months, a world public exhausted with fighting came to believe, or at least to hope, that mankind really had begun to put the savage madness of war behind it.
 
At its core, the UN was, as FDR had always wished, an institutionalized form of the wartime alliance. It was understood that the Big Five would provide the bulk of the troops available to the UN; Article 47 of the Charter established a Military Staff Committee, consisting only of delegates of the five, which was responsible for the “strategic direction of any armed forces placed at the disposal of the Security Council.” Attempts by smaller countries to limit the veto largely failed, which both ensured the supremacy of the Big Five and allowed each of them to block any use of the council’s enforcement powers that they opposed. The council and the General Assembly would be served by a professional secretariat, with a secretary-general functioning as the UN’s “chief administrative officer.” But unlike the League of Nations’s chief executive, who had been expected to tend strictly to internal affairs, the UN secretary-general, according to Article 99 of the Charter, was empowered to “bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security.” Precisely what this vague assertion meant was in no way clear.
 
The United Nations was much more than an instrument for global policing; the new body also aspired to affirmatively shape a new and more just world order. An Economic and Social Council would seek to alleviate the poverty and injustice that often lay at the root of conflict; a Trusteeship Council would promote self-government in colonized states, with an ultimate eye to sovereignty; and a World Court would adjudicate international disputes.
 
The UN Charter was bequeathed to, and greeted by, the world public as if it were the Decalogue brought straight from Mount Sinai. The most sober figures described it in the most intoxicated language. John Foster Dulles, an adviser to the U.S. delegation and future secretary of state, called the Charter “a greater Magna Carta.” Senator Arthur Vandenberg, a Republican and former isolationist whom President Truman had shrewdly included in the team sent to San Francisco, presented the document to the Senate as “a new emancipation proclamation for the world.” The Senate, which a generation earlier had rejected the League of Nations and which continued to harbor a good many men deeply suspicious of the world beyond America’s borders, ratified the Charter by the astonishingly lopsided total of 89 to 2. Men, including hardheaded men, so ardently wished to put an end to conflict between nations that they allowed themselves to believe that this mechanism they had built might actually make war, at least catastrophic war, obsolete.
 
The General Assembly held its opening session on January 17, 1946. The meeting was held amid the rubble of war-torn London, but two months later the UN moved to New York, where it occupied the Bronx campus of Hunter College, a municipal college for women. Workmen hurriedly redecorated the college gym to make room for the deliberations of the Security Council. The UN’s first important order of business was choosing a secretary-general. The Americans wanted Lester Pearson, the Canadian ambassador to Washington and future prime minister and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, but the Soviets would not accept a figure close to the United States. They wanted someone from a country not aligned with the United States, and so settled on Norway’s thoroughly undistinguished foreign minister, Trygve Lie, who was then swiftly approved. “There was no consideration of who might be best for the job,” writes Brian Urquhart, one of the UN’s most illustrious civil servants as well as one of its leading historians. Urquhart served as one of Lie’s personal assistants and describes him as a simple and simpleminded man “out of his depth” as head of the new world body, “jealous of his position and at the same time nervous of it.” Ralph Bunche, the American diplomat and high UN official, records his first impression of the new SG: “a huge, flabby-looking man” said by British colleagues to be “a politician first, last and all the time.” In its initial act the UN thus established an implicit rule of the lowest common denominator, an early sign that this new organization might not live up to the noble ideals with which it was forged.
 ...

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Descrizione libro Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, United Kingdom, 2007. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. In 2004, Kofi Annan was nearly hounded from office by scandal. Following the invasion of Iraq, critics, and even some supporters, began asking whether the UN had outlived its usefulness. Do its failures arise from its own structure or from a clash with a US administration determined to go its own way? James Traub, who enjoyed unprecedented access to Annan and his aides from 2003 to 2006, delves into these questions and describes the Oil-for-Food scandal, the failed attempt to act decisively against ethnic cleansing in Sudan, and Annan s sweeping reforms. The Best Intentions is both a fascinating fly-on-the-wall account of Annan s two terms as Secretary General and an important critical study of the institution that has carried the best hopes of the world since 1945. Codice libro della libreria AA79780747587286

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Descrizione libro Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, United Kingdom, 2007. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. In 2004, Kofi Annan was nearly hounded from office by scandal. Following the invasion of Iraq, critics, and even some supporters, began asking whether the UN had outlived its usefulness. Do its failures arise from its own structure or from a clash with a US administration determined to go its own way? James Traub, who enjoyed unprecedented access to Annan and his aides from 2003 to 2006, delves into these questions and describes the Oil-for-Food scandal, the failed attempt to act decisively against ethnic cleansing in Sudan, and Annan s sweeping reforms. The Best Intentions is both a fascinating fly-on-the-wall account of Annan s two terms as Secretary General and an important critical study of the institution that has carried the best hopes of the world since 1945. Codice libro della libreria AA79780747587286

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Descrizione libro Bloomsbury Publishing PLC, 2007. Condizione libro: New. 2007. Paperback. Following the invasion of Iraq, critics, and supporters of Kofi Annan, began asking whether failures of UN arise from a clash with a US administration? This book delves into these questions and describes the Oil-for-Food scandal, the failed attempt to act decisively against ethnic cleansing in Sudan, and his sweeping reforms. Num Pages: 464 pages. BIC Classification: HBG; HBLW3; JPSN1. Category: (G) General (US: Trade). Dimension: 197 x 130 x 17. Weight in Grams: 280. . . . . . . Codice libro della libreria V9780747587286

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Descrizione libro Bloomsbury Publishing PLC. Paperback. Condizione libro: new. BRAND NEW, The Best Intentions: Kofi Annan and the UN in the Era of American World Power, James Traub, In 2004, Kofi Annan was nearly hounded from office by scandal. Following the invasion of Iraq, critics, and even some supporters, began asking whether the UN had outlived its usefulness. Do its failures arise from its own structure or from a clash with a US administration determined to go its own way? James Traub, who enjoyed unprecedented access to Annan and his aides from 2003 to 2006, delves into these questions and describes the Oil-for-Food scandal, the failed attempt to act decisively against ethnic cleansing in Sudan, and Annan's sweeping reforms. "The Best Intentions" is both a fascinating fly-on-the-wall account of Annan's two terms as Secretary General and an important critical study of the institution that has carried the best hopes of the world since 1945. Codice libro della libreria B9780747587286

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