excerpted from the book
Deliver Us From Evil
by William Shawcross
Touchstone Books, 2000, paper
Through 2000, old crises and old interventions loomed again
or rumbled on, sometimes unseen, forgotten, sometimes recapturing
The Russian army mounted a brutal new assault on Chechnya,
in a reprise of the 1994-96 war in which at least eighty thousand
people had been killed, among them Fred Cuny, whom I described
in the prologue. Russia's leaders justified the assault by declaring
that Chechnya was an outlaw state, and, indeed, the Chechen authorities
had lost control to armed extremists; Chechen bandits had invaded
the republic of Dagestan in August and Chechen terrorists were
believed to be responsible for bombing three apartment buildings
and an officers' barracks in Russia. The war was immensely popular
in Russia; even Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said, "We have been
attacked. We have been retreating for fifteen years and we need
to stop somewhere. . .
But the impact was terrible. By the end of November 1999 at
least 200,000 refugees had fled to the neighboring republic of
Ingushetia and were shivering in railroad cars and other makeshift
shelters with inadequate assistance. After Kofi Annan intervened
with the Russian prime minister, Vladimir Putin, Sadako Ogata,
the high commissioner for refugees, was allowed to visit the camps,
and the United Nations attempted to increase deliveries of tents
and other supplies to the refugees.
On December 6, Russia's military command delivered an ultimatum
to the Chechens who remained in the city of Grozny. It stated
that a "humanitarian corridor" would remain open until
December 11 and after that all those who remained in the capital
"will be viewed as terrorists and bandits and will be destroyed
by artillery and aviation." There were at that time thought
to be about fifty thousand residents of Grozny, many of them too
sick, old or impoverished to be able to leave in the depths of
a winter siege. By any standards the Russian ultimatum was an
Western complaints about this new humanitarian disaster were
muted; whereas in Kosovo and East Timor the international community
had intervened with the full force of both rhetoric and arms,
in the case of Russia there was no such possibility. But the Russians
saw a symmetry between Chechnya and Kosovo. Just as the West had
ignored Russian complaints about NATO's bombing of Yugoslavia
in spring 1999, so Russia now ignored Western complaints about
the humanitarian disaster that its attack on Chechnya created.
Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov accused the West of showing little
interest in the humanitarian problems in Yugoslavia after eleven
weeks of NATO bombing.
As Michael Wines reported from Moscow in the New York Times,
"Now, in Russian eyes, Moscow's day-and-night attacks on
Chechnya mirror NATO's round-the-clock raids, but without the
West's smart bombs and accurate missiles that minimized civilian
deaths in Serbia and Kosovo." Chechnya in fact showed the
limits of the new humanitarianism extolled by both Bill Clinton
and Tony Blair.
In Cambodia, whose tribulations first interested me in international
intervention, Hun Sen had consolidated his power by force and
by guile. Now sole prime minister, over the last three years he
had imprisoned, exiled or cowed the opposition in the royalist
Funcinpec Party, the winner of the 1993 UN election. In 1997 he
had finally destroyed the coalition with Funcinpec that he had
barely endured since 1993 and took full control in a coup d'etat.
He consdolidated his power in 1998 by winning elections which
were by no means as free and fair as those staged by UNTAC.
Pol Pot had died, and among the other principal Khmer Rouge
leaders a few were arrested, but most had been given amnesties
by the government and still enjoyed valuable timber and gem concessions.
The United Nations wanted to stage an international trial of other
Khmer Rouge officials, but Hun Sen insisted that any trial had
to be under Cambodian procedures, in which few people had much
faith. Referring to the United Nations refusal to recognize his
Vietnamese-dominated regime in the 1980s, he warned, "Those
who maltreated Hun Sen should not criticize or teach Hun Sen how
to have a trial of the Khmer Rouge leaders."
But there was now a form of stability in Cambodia and UNTAC's
achievements were not all lost. The peace process had sown the
seeds of civil society, which had survived in the form of independent
human rights groups, newspapers and other free associations. Sam
Rainsy, the leader of the Khmer Nation Party, the most effective
opposition group, continued to oppose the Hun Sen regime with
great courage. But the nature of governance in Cambodia depended
on Hun Sen, whose power was more and more extensive and whose
conduct was, as always, unpredictable. At the end of 1999 he maintained
that there was no longer any need for even a small UN presence
in Cambodia. But given the continued abuse of human rights, in
particular by Hun Sen's agents, the continued presence of the
UN and its human rights office seemed essential.
In Somalia, there were finally attempts to re-create a state.
Mohammed Aideed was dead, but, except in Somaliland in the north,
the clan leaders still fought bitterly at the expense of the population.
This suggested that even with wiser priorities the United Nations
could not have rebuilt the failed state in 1992 or 1993. In 1999,
Somalia was still as far from becoming a "functioning and
viable member of the community of nations" (Madeleine Albright's
hope for Somalia in 1993) as ever. Nonetheless, hundreds of thousands
of people were alive who would not have been but for the world's
efforts in the early nineties.
But by the end of 2000, a new state had finally begun to emerge,
a decade after the last functioning government had collapsed.
A transitional national assembly managed to put itself together
and appointed a new Somali president-Abdiqassam Salad Hassan.
The initial funding for the tiny new administration was provided
by the Arab League. The clan leaders were excluded from the new
system but they remained powerful and Somalia was still a dangerous
place; in the year up to November 2000, seven aid workers were
reported to have been killed.
In Bosnia, Dayton had been a success as a cease-fire, but
it had failed as a peace agreement. The fighting, mercifully,
had been stopped, but almost nothing had been achieved in terms
of building a democratic multi-ethnic state.
The original, well-intentioned concept of Dayton, "one
state, two entities and three peoples," had failed. Dayton's
electoral system had confirmed the power of the Muslim, Serb and
Croat blocs. At the end of 1999, the International Crisis Group
pointed out, Bosnia had three de facto mono-ethnic entities, three
separate armies, three separate police forces and a national government
that existed on paper but scarcely anywhere else. International
police monitors, under UN control, were unable to dilute the nationalist
ethics of the police forces.
Few of those indicted for war crimes had been arrested (in
particular, not such ringleaders as Radovan Karadzic and General
Ratko Mladic). Political power still remained in the hands of
hard-line nationalists who often collaborated with police and
local extremists. They prevented refugees from areas where they
were not in the ethnic majority from returning to their prewar
homes. At least one million Bosnians were still without permanent
housing. The NATO-led international force (SFOR) refused to fulfill
its mandate and act as an implementing agent. The Serbs and the
Croats were awaiting a lessening of international interest. Local
leaders demanded aid as the price of even minimum compliance with
Dayton's plans. As donor fatigue increased, so compliance receded.
The gloomy conclusion was that the ethnic cleansers had won:
Bosnia was ethnically divided. The international community's principal
achievement of the last four years was to have suppressed the
fighting. This was essential but inadequate. If and when NATO
troops withdrew, it seemed probable that war would begin again.
The gloom was deepened by the results of elections in November
2000, in which the nationalist parties in Bosnia strengthened
their positions. They had all used the peace imposed by Dayton
not to repair the fabric of society as a whole, but to entrench
their own positions. James Lyon, the head of the International
Crisis Group in Sarajevo, said that the nationalist leaders were
not exhausted and conciliatory after Dayton, but intent on securing
power through means other than war. They had exploited the international
community's reconstruction program for their own ends. The three
nationalist parties in each of the enclaves created by Dayton
had stolen (often blatantly) funds supplied by the international
community to the public utilities they controlled. "Five
years after Dayton, taxpayers in our countries are running out
of patience," said Wolfgang Petrisch, the West's senior representative
in Bosnia. There was increasing competition for the West's resources
coming from elsewhere, and the leaders of the Bosnian factions
clearly had no intention of even attempting to govern equitably,
as had been hoped at the time of Dayton.
In Kosovo, the rights of the majority were now assured. But
NATO troops held uneasy sway over a territory in which fewer and
fewer Serbs dared to live (150,000 had been "cleansed"
or fled since NATO's victory). Perhaps even more sinister, the
enmity between Albanians and Serbs was echoed by a struggle between
those Albanians who wanted to create a tolerant and multi-ethnic
society and those who opposed it. At the end of 1999 the latter
were in the ascendancy and the UN/NATO ambition of creating democratic,
pluralistic institutions was far from being realized. Indeed,
Kosovo appeared to be moving in the opposite direction, toward
more violent intolerance.
And there was another uncomfortable paradox. The policy of
the international community was that Kosovo should remain part
of Serbia, but the overwhelming majority of Kosovars wanted total
independence. The UN's mandate was therefore almost impossible
to carry out. NATO troops, the liberators of the Kosovars, would
soon be seen by those same Kosovars as the principal obstacle
to the freedom that they sought. This was a strange dilemma for
an organization of democracies intent on promoting the virtues
of that system.
There was an even more serious problem for Kosovo by the end
of 1999; the international community had forgotten it. That might
not be the view of those who struggled to obtain funds for relief
and development in a dozen African crises. But it was certainly
felt by those fighting to maintain commitments to Kosovo. Steven
Erlanger wrote in the New York Times in November 1999 that the
UN government was "starved of funds by the countries that
fought and had won the war." It could not even pay the salaries
of the public employees it was supposed to hire and control. Serbs
were still being killed with the same sort of impunity that had
previously attended murders of Albanians; the reality of revenge
and intolerance was eroding the UN's dreams of a multiethnic society.
There were forty-two thousand Western soldiers and more than three
hundred aid agencies in Kosovo, and yet the basics of a new state
still had not been created. There was still no justice, no police,
no power, no water, and there were not even any new identity documents
to replace those the Serbs had stolen in the spring.
Bernard Kouchner, Annan's representative in Kosovo, complained
that he was having to beg for money and police officers. Without
them, he could not begin to restore a semblance of normal life.
The international community just would not provide the $25 million
needed for 1999's budget shortfall, let alone 2000's estimated
$150 million budget gap. Compared with the costs of the bombing,
the amounts were small. Without investment, the attempt to rebuild
Kosovo would fail. "It is ridiculous and a scandal,"
complained Kouchner in December 1999 "If the nations of the
world fighting to protect minorities altogether cannot send me
six thousand police officers, what kind of a world is it>"
The international community which had devoted its energies to
winning the war was, as so often, far less obviously committed
to the peace.
Serbia itself had been set back years, some said fifty years,
by the bombing. Kofi Annan warned of a humanitarian crisis there
unless food and heating oil were provided. Slobodan Milosevic,
under indictment from The Hague, was facing increasing though
still divided opposition. His ventures over the last decade had
created catastrophe for all around. One of the leading Serb opposition
leaders, Vuk Draskovic, said in October that the Milosevic regime
was "an empire of evil, which allows nothing to grow in Serbia,
which every day creates death and which will itself be destroyed."
In October 2000, the Milosevic regime was removed, though
not destroyed, in the most unexpected way-that is, peacefully-after
an election in which Milosevic was defeated by a new opposition
leader, Vojslav Kostunica. Serbia and its neighbors rejoiced and
Kostunica was given immediate support by the international community.
In January 2001, parliamentary elections in Serbia dealt a serious
blow to Milosevic's party and in February the head of his secret
police, Rade Markovic, was arrested. Under increasing pressure
to deliver the former leader to the tribunal in The Hague, or
at least place him on trial in Belgrade, Kostunica had Milosevic
arrested in April 2001. At this writing, it appeared that Milosevic
himself might have to account for at least some of his crimes.
Around the Great Lakes of Central Africa, war and terror still
raged. In autumn 1999 the rebels trying to overthrow President
Laurent Kabila of Congo signed a cease-fire agreement in "the
Great War of Africa" involving many of the countries around
Congo; fighting slowed but did not end. Everyone had switched
sides. Now the remnants of the Hutu army which Kabila and his
Rwandan and Ugandan allies had tried to exterminate in 1997 were
fighting for him against his former allies. By November 1999,
the cease-fire seemed to be on the point of total breakdown, as
each side accused the other of violations. Kabila denounced his
erstwhile allies as "Rwanda's dogs" and insisted he
would crush them.
Much of the continued warfare in the region stemmed from the
failure of the world to stop the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. And
now Kosovo had diverted resources from this and other African
crises. By fall 1999, UNHCR had most of the money it needed for
Kosovo refugees, but only 60 percent of the funds needed for African
refugees. The World Food Program had to cut its programs in three
of the poorest African countries, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone,
because of lack of donor interest.
In October, Hutu rebels murdered UNICEF's representative,
Luis Zuniga, and the World Food Program's logistics officer, Saskia
von Meijenfeldt, in Burundi, which was still teetering on the
edge of disaster. Several other UN workers just escaped. Their
deaths came just one day after a UN official, Valentin Krumov,
was murdered in Kosovo (a Bulgarian, Krumov was apparently mistaken
for a Serb) and a month after a UNICEF doctor was murdered in
Somalia. Throughout this decade UN and other aid officials have
become more and more vulnerable. They used to be "off-limits";
in the new wars they are often targets. In 1998, for the first
time in history, more UN civilian workers were killed in the line
of duty-twenty-four- than peacekeeping soldiers. Perhaps more
shocking still is that whereas governments went to great lengths
to protect their troops (witness NATO in Kosovo), the deaths of
UN civilians provoked little public outcry.
In 1999, the figures were even worse than the year before.
By the end of November, twenty-eight civilian UN workers had been
killed around the world. Fifteen of them died in the crash of
a World Food
Program plane in Kosovo which killed all twenty-four aboard,
eight were shot to death and others died as the result of bombings
In Iraq, Saddam Hussein could still claim victory; for over
a year there had been no inspections and no monitoring whatsoever
of his attempts to create new weapons of mass destruction. According
to the Pentagon, he was rebuilding his war machine, perhaps to
the extent of building new chemical or biological weapons, in
brazen defiance of the United Nations and international law.
The Security Council had been completely divided on how monitoring
should be restored in line with successive resolutions. Iraq's
friends on the council sought a far more lenient regime than that
embodied by Richard Butler and the tough investigators from UNSCOM,
one that would be answerable to the Secretariat rather than the
council. The Russians had demanded that if and when new inspection
teams (sometimes called "UNSCOM Lite") were allowed
in, sanctions should immediately be lifted. The United States
and Britain resisted this.
By early 2001 the international sanctions against Iraq were
at the point of collapse. Saddam had still allowed no inspections
or monitoring, but the French and the Russians in particular now
refused to accept the ban on direct flights to Iraq. In February
2001, the new Bush administration, together with Britain, bombed
military facilities outside Baghdad. This attack was denounced
by France and Germany as illegal.
The consequences of the council's failure to agree stretched
far beyond Iraq and the region, serious though they were there.
The UN's basic responsibility for the "maintenance of international
peace and security" was undermined by the fact that its unique
lawmaking and law-enforcement power was being defied by a dictator
of whose malign intent there was no doubt.
In Sierra Leone, the rebel leader, Foday Sankoh, had returned
in triumph. The citizens of Freetown seemed prepared, for the
moment, to give the peace accord which brought the rebels into
government the benefit of the doubt. Kofi Annan had called for
a peacekeeping force to be deployed there as envisaged under the
accord, but unlike with East Timor, the troops and funds were
hard to find, slow to come.
At the end of November, at the beginning of the largest peace
keeping operation in Africa in two years, 130 Kenyan troops arrived.
In all there were to be 6,000 peacekeepers, under the command
of an Indian general. Their task was very hard. At the airport
ceremony to welcome the Kenyans, there was no representative of
Sankoh. Despite the fact that he had signed the peace agreement
authorizing their intervention, he had recently criticized their
deployment saying, "It's up to Sierra Leoneans to solve their
own problems," and accusing the peacekeepers of living on
Only a handful of Sankoh's brutal troops had voluntarily disarmed,
as they were all supposed to do under the peace agreement. Many
of those who had laid down their arms were child soldiers. Tens
of thousands of others remained in the bush and, according to
United Nations officials, they were still killing, maiming, raping
and abducting people in the countryside, even as their leaders
became accustomed to the trappings of power in the capital. In
2000, the situation deteriorated still further, as we shall see.
In East Timor, independence was assured, but the future of
Indonesia seemed more problematic. The East Timor peacekeeping
force, INTERFET, had established order and thousands of people
had returned from the hills to the wrecked towns. But unknown
thousands were still missing. Many had been deported by the militias
and the Indonesian army to West Timor or other parts of the Indonesian
archipelago before INTERFET arrived.
In Afghanistan, the war between the Taliban and their enemies,
together with opium traffic, religious extremism and gross human
rights violations, particularly of women, still threatened the
country's own people as well as its neighbors.
UN-sponsored peace talks had collapsed, and in an annual report
to the General Assembly, Annan said that "Afghanistan is
becoming a breeding ground for religious extremism and sectarian
violence as well as various types of international terrorism."
The Taliban government, he said, had been conducting "vicious
attacks" against civilians, including executions of women
and children, looting, burning, forced labor and driving thousands
of people from their homes and land. In the Shomali plains in
July, the Taliban had terrorized civilians, recruited children
as soldiers, destroyed agriculture and cut down fruit trees. In
September the Taliban had destroyed statues of Buddha in the Bamian
area. The secretary general said the involvement of thousands
of foreign "volunteers," including children under fourteen
from religious schools in Pakistan, was unacceptable. "There
is every indication that the fire has begun to spread in all directions."
In Haiti, which I visited again at the end of 1999, there
seemed sadly little to show for the multi-billion-dollar U.S.
invasion of 1994 that had been intended to restore democracy.
Economic sanctions had helped lower per capita income to $250,
the lowest in the Western Hemisphere. Leadership was nonexistent,
and the country's political style remained intransigence. The
UN had managed to create the country's first demilitarized national
police-but the new force had been unable to combat a crime wave
which included serious outbreaks of political violence. But the
U.S.-UN intervention had achieved at least an end to the systematic
abuse of human rights in the country. It had less success with
politics. For more than two years, the parliament had not functioned.
Elections for a new parliament and local councils had slipped
from 1998 through 1999 to March 2000, a date widely questioned
despite the efforts of an electoral council of integrity but dubious
capability. U.S. troops, military engineers and medical specialists
had succeeded in alleviating for some people the awful conditions
in which almost everyone lived, but the last few hundred were
now about to leave. All in all, the U.S. ambassador, Timothy Carney,
admitted, Haiti was not a success story, but he said that some
international expectations had been unrealistic. A widely shared
analysis was that Haitians had created the norms of democracy,
but were unable to realize those norms because Haitian leaders,
in particular Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the former and perhaps future
president, were unwilling to shed the country's old autocratic,
predatory political style. The hope that Aristide had represented
at the end of the 1980s was now entirely dissipated across Haiti's
political and middle classes and attenuated even in the slums
in which the vast majority of Haitians still lived. Like Cambodia,
the case of Haiti seemed to show that the international community
can put nations into the process of transition, but effecting
the transition depends on the indigenous leaders and political
At the end of November 1999 the Security Council agreed to
extend the police training program till March 2000, pending transformation
of the human rights and police training into a new mission which
would add the vital dimension of judicial reform. Responsibility
for Haiti was moved to the General Assembly because China had
threatened to veto any further police role on the island, in retaliation
for its links to Taiwan.
In May 2000, legislative elections took place in Haiti, the
first in three years. There were hopes that these would be a critical
step towards building a stable democracy. Not so; the elections
were preceded by the murder of more than a dozen party officials
and candidates and were immediately followed by the arrest of
other opposition candidates and officials. The eventual count
was called into question by observers from the Organization of
American States who said that the results had been falsified to
favor Aristide's party, Family Lavalas. Kofi Annan urged the electoral
authorities to recalculate the results, saying he was "troubled
continuing irregularities" in the vote counting. Such concerns
were denounced by Aristide's allies as interference in Haiti's
internal affairs and the result was that Aristide's party dominated
the new assembly.
Having been rebuffed so roundly, neither the UN nor the OAS
would take part in monitoring the presidential elections at the
end of November 2000. The opposition parties boycotted the event;
Aristide was elected. Haiti was in danger of becoming even more
isolated from its allies, as both UN and U.S. officials despaired
of the corruption and despotism of its leaders, who seemed far
more intent on making the impoverished island a stop-off point
for running drugs from Latin America to the United States than
in improving the political or social conditions of their country.
After the election, Kofi Annan announced his intention of closing
the UN mission in Haiti.
In the United States there was still argument over its debt
to the United Nations, reckoned at $1.5 billion by the UN-or 80
percent of all unpaid assessments for the UN's regular budget
and peacekeeping operations. In mid-November the White House and
Congress reached a compromise under which the U.S. would pay $926
million to the United Nations-about two thirds of what the UN
believed the U.S. owed. Annan said that the offer was a step in
the right direction, but it was not much more. The money was much
less than hoped for, and Congress imposed other conditions, insisting
that even this reduced amount would not be paid unless the UN
accepted it in full payment, agreed to a permanent cut in the
U.S. share of the UN's operating budget from 25 percent to 22
percent and pledged that the UN's administrative budget would
not rise over the next two years. These conditions were onerous
for the UN and its members to accept.
The U.S. ambassador, Richard Holbrooke, said, "This is
not a diktat from Washington; this is an effort at persuasion.
It will take a long time, it won't be easy...." He repeated
the mantra that U.S. payments were linked to UN reform. Kofi Annan
agreed that he had not yet been able to remove "the overly
burdensome and overly intrusive" management systems, which
he blamed on "a plethora of resolutions and responsibilities
handed down by the member states over the years, layer on layer."
Instead of the grand reform schemes proposed by Boutros Boutros-Ghali,
Annan was now attempting to work through the existing structures,
in particular, through regional organizations. Having infuriated
senior U.S. officials by his ultimately unsuccessful attempts
to deal with Saddam Hussein and stop the bombing of Iraq in 1998,
Annan was now seen in Washington, as well as in other capitals
of the permanent five, as an increasingly skilled builder of consensus
on the Security Council. There were criticisms that he was too
cautious and too averse to confrontation, but he could point out
that confrontational policies had got Boutros-Ghali and the UN
nowhere. He had begun to introduce a more transparent culture
at the United Nations, which was best illustrated by his report
on Srebrenica, published in November 1999. While it was painfully
honest about the failures of the Secretariat and UNPROFOR troops,
the report did not hesitate to blame the Security Council and
member states for imposing totally inappropriate mandates which
were bound to do more harm than good to the very people they were
intended to help. He had also commissioned a report on Rwanda.
The report was published in the middle of December 1999. Like
the report on Srebrenica, it was startling for its candor. Both
were searing examinations of the flaws of the Secretariat and
of member states. Annan had allowed the inquiry team, headed by
former Swedish prime minister Ingvar Carlsson, complete access
to the UN archives and to UN officials, past and present. The
report was critical of everyone, including Boutros Boutros-Ghali,
Annan himself, and officials in UNAMIR. It also identified much
broader failures by the council itself and by individual nations,
particularly the U.S., Belgium and France.
The report showed how the reluctance of the international
community, led by the U.S., to "cross the Mogadishu line"
led to bad decision making. UNAMIR was set up too slowly, too
cheaply, with unrealistic optimism about the peace process, was
"beset by debilitating administrative difficulties"
and was unable to function as a cohesive mission. Annan and his
peacekeeping department were criticized for not taking Dallaire's
January 11, 1994, cable warning of massacres of Tutsis by Hutu
extremists more seriously. The secretary general and the Security
Council should have been directly informed. The three governments-the
United States, Belgium and France- whom the peacekeeping department
did inform took no action. When the genocide began in April 1994,
some UNAMIR soldiers were courageous, but they also stood by virtually
helpless as butchery spread across the country. The Belgians abandoned
two thousand civilians hiding in a technical school after promising
to protect them.
The inquiry called attempts by the U.S. and other governments
to deny the genocide "deplorable." But it had much less
detailed criticisms of the U.S. and other member states than of
the Secretariat- because, unlike Annan, Albright and other senior
U.S. officials declined to be questioned. The inquiry found that
the overriding failure in the UN's response lay in both its lack
of resources and its lack of political will; it declared that
the UN Secretariat and its member states should have apologized
more fully, more frankly, much earlier. Annan saw the finished
report only shortly before it was published. He issued a statement
saying that he accepted its findings unconditionally. "On
behalf of the United Nations, I acknowledge this failure and express
my deep remorse." At a press conference, Carlsson said wisely,
"There is no mathematical formula for apportioning blame.
We have not avoided telling the truth, but hind
The Rwanda and Srebrenica reports together showed a new culture
of openness at the United Nations under Annan. Flora Lewis declared
in the New York Times that Annan had made "a big breakthrough
for simple honesty." The reports revealed, in excruciating
detail, how very hard it is for the international community to
respond with necessary speed to unfolding humanitarian disasters-for
both organizational and political reasons. The bottom line in
both crises was that major governments did not want to do more.
And in both Bosnia and Rwanda, the United Nations tried to maintain
the neutrality of peacekeeping longer than could be justified
by the horror around. The Carlsson inquiry underscored Annan's
assertion that when the international community promises to protect
people, "it must be willing to back its promises with the
necessary means." Far too often in the nineties there was
a gulf between mandate and means. Partly as a result, thousands
of people died.
Annan was praised not only for his openness, but also for
many of his appointments, among them Louise Frechette, who brought
vigor to the new post of deputy secretary general; Pino Arlacchi,
the Italian anti-mafia prosecutor, to run the UN's Drug Control
Program Mark Malloch Brown, who left the World Bank to become
administrator of the UN Development Program and begin its long
overdue reform; and Sergio Vieira de Mello, the UNHCR official
who was now the special representative in East Timor.
Rather than demand grandiose new global orders, he played
his strongest card, himself, using his innate powers of persuasion
to try to effect change. He had not publicly criticized NATO's
actions in Kosovo, and he had helped persuade both the Chinese
and the Russians to accept Chapter VII intervention in East Timor-no
mean feat. The Economist's Foreign Report stated in September
1999 that 'Annan may be remembered as the UN's most ingenious
leader." By the end of the year, he was three years into
his five-year term and there seemed to be a growing consensus
among the permanent five that he should be asked to stay on for
a second term. Given the fantastic pressures of the job, in which
one crisis tumbles always on top of another, and given the conflicting
demands that are made daily on the secretary general from different
and distant corners of the earth, that was a daunting prospect.
But Annan now personified the spirit of the international community,
with all its hopes, heroism and disappointments, more than any
secretary general since Dag Hammarskjold. In March 2001, he bowed
to pressure from all over the world and announced he was prepared
to serve another five-year term.
Deliverance from evil was the theme of Kofi Annan's address
on September 20, 1999, to the last UN General Assembly session
of the twentieth century. Humanitarian intervention in the twenty-first
century was his subject.
He pointed out that the notion of state sovereignty-central
to the concept of the United Nations-is being redefined by the
forces of globalization and international cooperation. Individual
rights are being seen as more and more important, so we have to
think anew about how the world responds to political, human rights
and humanitarian crises.
We are doing so... new global architecture is being built
upon the international system that was constructed after the Second
World War. The final structure is still unknown, but the shape
is becoming clearer. It includes humanitarian rather than strategic
intervention; the ad hoc war crimes tribunals dealing with the
former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, which in turn have led to the birth
of the International Criminal Court; and other changes which diminish
The overall aim is to protect the rights of individuals and
to limit the impunity of dictators. Whether they will all succeed
in doing so is another matter. Justice and peace do not always
march hand in hand. Is armed intervention and the imposition of
cease-fires always the best road to peace? Or is it sometimes
the case, as the strategist Edward Luttwak has observed, that
only the evil of war can resolve a political conflict and bring
about peace? In a provocative essay on Kosovo in Foreign Affairs
entitled "Give War a Chance," Luttwak argued that governments
should resist "the emotional impulse to intervene in other
people's wars-not because they are indifferent to human suffering
but precisely because they care about it and want to facilitate
the advent of peace."
Will warlords in the future limit their atrocities for fear
of international prosecution, or will they be even more determined
to hang on to power? Put another way, has the indictment of leaders
in the Yugoslav tragedy both helped end that tragedy and deterred
other warlords? Or does the fact that, until early 1999, NATO
governments withheld from the tribunal the evidence necessary
to form an indictment of Milosevic suggest that politics lie,
as ever, behind the pieties? Would Sierra Leone have been better
served by the international community if Foday Sankoh had been
hunted down and brought to trial rather than made minister for
The nature of the world today does not allow us to ignore
the disasters that others suffer, but we are aware only of some.
Many cases call for attention, but there are only limited resources
and limited desire to meet them. Our choice of where to intervene
is often driven by the capricious nature of television and the
interests of major Western governments.
There is an uncomfortable paradox. We want more to be put
right, but we are prepared to sacrifice less. To put this another
way, Western television audiences want to stop seeing children
dying on their screens, but many political leaders believe we
do not want our own soldiers (our own children) to be put at risk
to rescue them. That could change if political leaders (in particular
the U.S. president) were prepared to argue that intervention cannot
be cost free- but that was not the case in the 1 990s.
The television cry "something must be done" can
be irresponsible and fickle. Too many of the efforts I have described
were forgotten as soon as victory was declared. (Even Kosovo had
virtually disappeared from newspapers and screens by October 1999.)
A commitment to peace is as important as a commitment to war,
but it is far more difficult to sustain. Is there not sometimes
a risk that by trying to do good half-heartedly or on the basis
of emotion, we can actually do more harm?
Such questions are raised by the events of the last decade.
Annan discussed them in his speech to the General Assembly. "From
Sierra Leone to the Sudan," he said, "to Angola to the
Balkans to Cambodia and to Afghanistan, there are a great number
of peoples who need more than just words of sympathy from the
He spoke of our partial vision: "our willingness to act
in some areas of conflict, while limiting ourselves to humanitarian
palliatives in many other crises whose daily toll of death and
suffering ought to shame us into action." The truth is that
national interest (or the perception of its own wide interests
by the international community) and geography will determine that
some crises get more attention than others.
Annan pointed out that Rwanda provides the most terrible example.
The genocide there defines for this generation the consequences
of inaction in the face of mass murder. By contrast, NATO's war
against Serbia-with serious humanitarian reason but without Security
Council approval-showed regional organizations acting unilaterally
in a good cause. Which was preferable?
Some people (and many states) argued that the use of force
without Security Council approval was the greatest threat to the
imperfect but resilient security system created after World War
II. Annan himself had been against NATO's unilateral action. But
remember Rwanda, he said. "If, in those dark days and hours
leading up to the 1994 genocide, a coalition of states had been
prepared to act in defense of the Tutsi population, but did not
receive prompt council authorization, should such a coalition
have stood aside as the horror unfolded?" The implication
He suggested that "if we are given the means-in Kosovo
and in Sierra Leone, in East Timor and in Angola-we have a real
opportunity to break the cycles of violence, once and for all."
As those and other examples show, that is astonishingly hard
to achieve. Adequate means will never be available everywhere.
Critics warned that Annan could be proposing everlasting humanitarian
war. But Annan was right to stress the vital nature of the debate,
and President Bill Clinton also told the General Assembly that
the UN must strengthen its capacity to intervene.
But what Clinton's suggestion failed to address was the crucial
fact that the members, in particular the United States, still
continually failed to give the United Nations the resources required
to undertake such tasks as he proposed. A gulf still yawned between
the rhetoric and the reality. Annan knew that unless that gulf
could somehow be bridged, the UN would never be able to act effectively.
Throughout the year 2000, Annan and his staff attempted to
grapple with the continuing dilemmas of intervention and attempted
also to redefine the role of the United Nations in the new millennium.
They had both successes and failures.
In April and May 2000, Kofi Annan visited West and Central
Africa, traveling to Senegal, Gambia, Gabon, the Central African
Republic and Cameroon. At each airport he was met with great noise
and enthusiasm by drummers, dancers and dignitaries. In Gambia,
the line of officials and diplomats with whom the secretary general
and his wife had to shake hands was long, but the progress was
enlivened by the shouting of a very tall grio, or soothsayer,
who walked just behind Annan and called out all manner of charms
and welcomes. Walking beside him was a happy-looking man in a
bowler hat with a feather in the rim. He looked as if he had some
ancient function-he was Gambia's ambassador to the UN.
Annan was horrified by the continuing crises in much of Africa,
in particular Sierra Leone, Congo and Zimbabwe. In a recent interview
he had said that one of his greatest disappointments as secretary
general was the quality of some African leaders. This remark had
infuriated some of the presidencies of Africa as much as it had
pleased many ordinary people.
In all the countries he visited, Annan repeated over and over
again that the time of coups was over, that this had to be the
era of good and transparent government, that law now ruled. And
the leaders whom he was visiting would invariably nod in agreement.
Sometimes they would volunteer how much they had done to meet
the new international standards of human rights. And in many cases,
sadly, everyone knew this was largely lip service.
While Annan attended ministerial tete-a-tetes, his wife Nane
visited women's groups and made it her business to draw attention
to the horrors of AIDS in Africa. Perhaps the saddest encounters
for her were in the Central African Republic, an utterly impoverished
land where up to 2s percent of the population are thought to have
been struck by the disease. Nane Annan visited an AIDS ward in
a hospital in the capital, Bangui, and a home for scores of children
orphaned by this killer.
As always, other crises fought for the secretary general's
attention. On this trip they included finding troops to replace
Israeli forces when they withdrew from southern Lebanon by June.
On his last night in Cameroon, Annan heard that there was a new
crisis in Sierra Leone.
Under the Lome Agreement, imposed on the elected government
of Sierra Leone in summer 1999, the rebel leader Foday Sankoh
had been given amnesty and power. He was made vice president and
was given control of those very diamond mines which had fueled
if not caused the war. Central to the Lome Agreement was a requirement
that the rebels disarm and demobilize. They were to hand over
the areas they had controlled for years to a new UN peacekeeping
force, UNAMSIL, which began to deploy in Sierra Leone toward the
end of 999.
But in the months since then, Sankoh had continually abused
his new position. Instead of ordering his men to abide by the
agreement, he encouraged them to continue to profit from the diamond
mines they controlled, by selling stones through Liberia. Now,
Annan learned, the RUF had suddenly attacked UN peacekeepers and
taken 500 of them hostage. There were real fears that the RUF
would march again on the capital and repeat the hideous atrocities
they had committed against its population in January 1999.
Annan spent half the night in Cameroon on the telephone to
all those African heads of state who might have some influence
on Foday Sankoh. In particular, he tried to persuade Charles Taylor,
the president of Liberia, Sankoh's closest ally and principal
supplier of arms, to exert control over his notorious ally. They
all failed to get the peacekeepers released. Later that day, when
Annan arrived in Paris to see President Chirac, he heard that
at least one peacekeeper had been murdered.
Sankoh's troops began to advance on Freetown, causing both
panic and anger in the city. Sankoh's house in the capital was
surrounded and sacked by a crowd of furious demonstrators. Sankoh
himself escaped over the wall and disappeared. He was thought
to have fled the city and rejoined his army, but after a few days
he was captured close to his ransacked house and imprisoned. Subsequently,
with the active assistance of the international community, preparations
were begun to place him on trial.
Annan called for a Rapid Reaction Force to be dispatched to
help UNAMSIL. To his disappointment, none of the industrialized
countries capable of mounting such an operation, agreed to participate.
Washington did offer to fly other countries' troops to Sierra
Leone, but at a higher cost than commercial charters. Annan publicly
complained of this and was rebuked by senior officials in the
In a surprising and welcome development, Britain did decide
to intervene, though not as part of the UN peacekeeping force.
In May 2000, under the pretext of evacuating British nationals,
a military force was dispatched to Freetown. It was not intended
to fight, but its presence was probably vital in deterring the
rebels from entering Freetown. Through the summer, the British
embarked on a prolonged exercise to train the undisciplined and
ineffectual Sierra Leone army.
The hazards of the British commitment were illustrated when
six British soldiers were captured by a ragtag group of Sierra
Leone rebels who called themselves the West Side Niggers (the
press usually referred to them as the "West Side Boys").
The British mounted a highly sophisticated and complicated rescue
mission which required extensive reconnaissance, intelligence
and planning, the use of satellite imagery and radio intercepts.
It succeeded because such resources were available and because
elite troops-the Parachute Regiment and the Special Air Services
(SAS)-were used in the operation. Ordinary UN peacekeeping troops
would have found success much more difficult.
Through the summer and autumn of 2000, the British presence
in Sierra Leone increased. Hundreds more British troops were deployed
alongside the UN mission, UNAMSIL, and a British task force was
anchored off Freetown. British officers on the ground and officials
in London stressed that they were there to work alongside the
UN and to try and persuade the rebels to back down and honor the
cease-fire they had signed.
UNAMSIL certainly needed assistance. It was already the largest
UN peacekeeping mission in the world-around 10,000, before the
Security Council authorized it to expand to 20,000. But it was
bedeviled by serious problems of command control, cohesion and
discipline. One fundamental problem was that the Nigerians, who
had born the brunt of the fight against the RUF long before the
UN intervened, believed that they should be in charge. Kofi Annan,
however, had refused to allow a controversial West African mission
merely to change its flag to that of the United Nations. He insisted
that the substantial Indian commitment to UNAMSIL be rewarded
with the command of the force.
The Indian commander, Major General Vijay KumarJetley, had
an almost impossible task. Command and control was almost nonexistent;
UNAMSIL was riven by tensions. General Jetley himself ascribed
this in part to Nigeria's wish to continue to dominate its backyard
and to corruption on the part of some Nigerian officers under
his notional command. Jetley believed that such officers were
more interested in dealing with the rebels over illegal diamond
exports than in policing the cease-fire and supervising the cantonment
and demobilization of rebel troops.
In September 2000, a Jetley memo detailing what he saw as
Nigerian corruption and malfeasance surfaced. The Nigerian government
denounced him and demanded that he be removed. In retaliation,
India announced the withdrawal of its troops. Jordan also announced
it would remove its contingent.
Annan had difficulty in finding suitable troops to replace
the Indians and the Jordanians, let alone to bring the force up
to the new authorized strength of 20,000. However, in November
2000, the rebels (under pressure from both the UN and the British
force) did agree to another cease-fire. In early December, Kofi
Annan visited Sierra Leone again. A new force commander, Lieutenant
General Daniel Opande of Kenya, had replaced General Jetley. But
UNAMSIL's political and organizational problems remained immense:
there was little reason for confidence that the peacekeepers could
really help end Sierra Leone's agonizing civil war. The UN's force
was depleted and fractured; it was acting in the context of the
Lome Agreement which was a bad agreement in the first place and
had now been destroyed by rebel malfeasance. Many Sierra Leonians
considered that only a military offensive could end the threat
of the rebels. The British contribution to force was very popular,
and there was widespread concern (shared by many UN officials)
that UNAMSIL would never have enough troops, let alone the will,
to confront the real problem.
The situation in Congo was, if anything, more complicated
for the United Nations than that in Sierra Leone. President Laurent
Kabila of Congo had continually refused to cooperate with the
peacekeepers mandated by the UN Security Council to police the
cease-fire the belligerents had signed in Lusaka in summer 1999
and had ignored thereafter.
Even with the cooperation of Kabila and all the other factions,
the UN would have had an almost impossible task. The peacekeeping
plan called for 500 monitors protected by 5,000 troops to be based
in four sites around the country from which they were to monitor
a cease-fire which none of the belligerents was prepared to observe.
And Congo was not a country that any peacekeeping force could
easily observe-it is, after all, the size of Western Europe, without
a single decent road. The peacekeepers and all their supplies
would have to be flown huge distances across the center of Africa,
and the whole operation would therefore be at the mercy of soldiers
with shoulder-fired, aimed ground-to-air missiles. It was undoubtedly
fortunate for the UN that the failure of the many factions to
abide by the agreement they had signed in Lusaka meant that only
a very small number of peacekeeping troops could be deployed during
2000. But the consequences of continuing, unseen warfare for Congo
itself were terrible. In January 2000, Kabila was assassinated
by one of his bodyguards. He was immediately succeeded by his
son, who promised he would honor the Lusaka agreement. At last
there was a glimmer of hope.
Faced with the failures of the past and with present problems,
Annan commissioned Lakhdar Brahimi, a former Algerian foreign
minister and now a seasoned UN diplomat, to compile a report on
the lessons to be derived from the peacekeeping efforts of the
last decade. Examining Srebrenica, Rwanda and other debacles of
the 1990s, the Brahimi report insisted that UN peacekeepers should
no longer practice neutrality in the face of serious violations
of accords. Impartiality could not mean "equal treatment
of all parties, in all cases, for all times." Peacekeepers
must be prepared to respond with force to "obvious aggressors."
The principles of the Charter must be respected; where one party
was clearly violating the terms of a peace agreement, continued
equal treatment of all parties by the UN could amount to complicity
with evil. No failure had done more to damage the standing and
credibility of UN peacekeeping in the 1990s than its reluctance
to distinguish victim from aggressor.
Brahimi recommended that the Secretariat should not apply
best-case planning assumptions when the local actors have usually
shown worst-case behavior. The Secretariat must tell the Council
what it needs to know, not what it wants to hear when recommending
force and other resource levels for a new mission.
Perhaps most important, the panel recommended that Council
resolutions authorizing new missions should remain in draft form
until the secretary general could confirm that members have found
the troops necessary. In other words, a Council resolution protecting
safe areas, such as in Bosnia in 1993, should not become law until
the necessary troops had been found. The secretary general must
be able to say no.
Brahimi pointed out that the slowness of reaction is often
very damaging and suggested that peacekeepers should be deployed
within thirty days of a resolution. The secretary general should
compile a list of people suitable to serve as his special representatives,
as police commissioners and in other senior peacekeeping positions,
at short notice. A standby arrangement system should be developed
to include several coherent multinational brigade-size forces
and the necessary enabling forces. The readiness of units should
be assessed by a UN team before they were deployed. The panel
called on member states to establish enhanced national "pools"
of police officers and other experts-judicial experts, penal experts
and human rights specialists, police officers, and others-to be
The panel also recommended changes in peacekeeping procurement
to facilitate rapid deployment. There should be a global logistics
support strategy for the stockpiling of equipment reserves and
standing contracts with the private sector for common goods and
services. The actual peacekeeping office in New York should be
strengthened. At the moment it cost $50 million a year-just 2
percent of the $2 billion now being spent a year on peacekeeping.
The report included examples of apple-pie thinking. Noting
that too many UN officials were appointed according to quotas
or nepotism, it argued that merit should be the only criterion
and that, from the top down, the secretary general and his staff
must reward excellence and remove incompetence. More realistically,
it urged member states to improve their working culture and for
the Council to "breathe life" into the words it produced:
the Council's mission to Djakarta was cited as an example of effective
action at its best-res, non verba.
Behind all of this lay the truth that increasingly the UN
is being asked to take on the functions of the government-first
in Cambodia, where it established or tried to establish a virtual
trusteeship in the early 1990s, then in both Kosovo and East Timor.
It had become very clear how hard these tasks were and how ill-prepared
the UN is to govern.
The operations in Kosovo and East Timor were very different,
but there were common lessons. Among these was preparedness: in
both places the UN had great difficulty in recruiting the right
personnel. It needed experts, rather than generalists-people with
skills in public administration, law and order, power, water,
agriculture, finance, procurement, auditing, border control, tax.
These were the skills needed actually to run a country. In all
this there was a clear irony. In the 1950s, the UN promoted decolonization.
At the turn of the millennium, it was being asked to act almost
like a colonial administration- but with none of the resources
of empires gone by.
In September 2000, Kofi Annan presided over a Millennium Summit
at the opening of the General Assembly. It was intended to redefine
the place of the United Nations in the world at the start of the
new millennium. Annan told the largest ever gathering of heads
of state-more than 150 kings, presidents and prime ministers-that
the people of the world looked to them to eradicate poverty, wipe
out disease and forge peace. He said he had no illusions that
the summit would by itself cure the world of its problems: "But
in today's world, given the technology and the resources around,
we have the means to tackle them. If we have the will, we can
deal with them. You may think I am a dreamer. But without the
dream you do not get anything else."
... The crises with which the world has had to deal since
the end of the Cold War are not new. Ethnic cleansing happened
on a vast scale at the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, when there
was no international community to do anything about it. Now there
is and, with fits and starts, this community is making progress.
The decade began with paralysis in Bosnia, overambition in
Somalia, a blind eye in Rwanda. It ended with Russia tolerating
international action in Kosovo and joining with China to approve
a peacemaking force in East Timor. But it ended also with the
West attempting to downplay Russia's brutality in Chechnya. The
new "humanitarian" foreign policy trumpeted by Clinton
and Blair clearly had familiar pragmatic limits when it came to
The interventions(that I have described)have attempted to
make the world a little less horrible in the last decade. Similar
interventions will almost certainly be needed in the next ten
The decisions of the men and women working as servants of
that fickle master, the international community, were sometimes
flawed by their own mistakes. More often they were hindered by
the strictures and limits placed upon them by their master. To
be humane, humanitarianism must last for more than the fifteen
minutes of attention that each crisis is accorded these days.
Intervention can assist people when they are desperate. But if
it is to be more than a sop to our own guilt, intervention must
be commensurate and consistent; it must be followed through. That
is how more people can be delivered from evil and peacekeepers
can prevail more often over warlords. As Annan put it in his report
on Srebrenica, "When the international community makes a
solemn promise to safeguard and protect innocent civilians from
massacre, then it must be willing to back its promise with the
necessary means. Otherwise it is surely better not to raise hopes
in the first place."
But humility is important. Not everything can be achieved,
not every wrong can be righted simply because the international
community desires it. We cannot suddenly rebuild failed states
or failing territories in our own image; Bosnia will not become
Michigan, nor Sierra Leone the Netherlands, just because we would
like to see visions of harmony on our television screens.
In a more religious time it was only God whom we asked to
deliver us from evil. Now we call upon our own man-made institutions
for such deliverance. That is sometimes to ask for miracles.
Us From Evil
International War Crimes