The World’s Failure in Rwanda Changed Kofi Annan’s Worldview
After Annan’s death, Krishnadev Calamur wrote about how the former United Nations secretary-general became a proponent of diplomatic interventions to alleviate human suffering.
Krishnadev Calamur’s article reviewing the late Kofi Annan’s achievements is the best I’ve seen, though its focus on United Nations “failures” shares something with other pieces I’ve read.
That is, it doesn’t seem to me that it can properly be said that the UN failed in, say, Rwanda, any more than it can be said that my hammock failed once again this morning to make my coffee. The reason for this takes some telling.
In 1878, the Congress of Berlin was held, nominally to clarify a single regional dispute, but actually to regulate the relationships between the great powers, and between them and weaker states. At the time, departing attendees said they had left some work unfinished and expected the settlement to forestall further conflict for only about five years. (Misha Glenny’s The Balkans comes at the matter with more sympathy toward countries affected by the negotiations than toward the leading negotiators, and is thus a useful source.)
The Congress was called by the Prussian statesman Otto von Bismarck; he was soon enough out of power, and no one in the following generation of statesmen could command the same degree of international cooperation. A series of regional crises took place against a backdrop of shifting capacity among the great powers. There was no sit-down of the scale of the Congress of Berlin to work problems out, and eventually Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination in Sarajevo in 1914 triggered the shakeout that became the First World War.