The Fog of Peace

The Fog of Peace: A Memoir of International Peacekeeping in the 21st Century

Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 331
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  • Book Info
    The Fog of Peace
    Book Description:

    At the beginning of the 1990s, the world exited the cold war and entered an era of great promise for peace and security.Guided by an invigorated United Nations, the international community set out to end conflicts that had flared into vicious civil wars and to unconditionally champion human rights and hold abusers responsible. The stage seemed set for greatness. Today that optimism is shattered. The failure of international engagement in conflict areas ranging from Afghanistan to Congo and Lebanon to Kosovo has turned believers into skeptics.The Fog of Peaceis a firsthand reckoning by Jean-Marie Guéhenno, the man who led UN peacekeeping efforts for eight years and has been at the center of all the major crises since the beginning of the 21st century. Guéhenno grapples with the distance between the international community's promise to protect and the reality that our noble aspirations may be beyond our grasp.

    The author illustrates with personal, concrete examples-from the crises in Afghanistan, Iraq, Congo, Sudan, Darfur, Kosovo, Ivory Coast, Georgia, Lebanon, Haiti, and Syria-the need to accept imperfect outcomes and compromises. He argues that nothing is more damaging than excessive ambition followed by precipitous retrenchment. We can indeed save many thousands of lives, but we need to calibrate our ambitions and stay the course.

    eISBN: 978-0-8157-2631-9
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xx)

    In the spring of 1989, I was in the city of Gdansk, having lunch with Lech Walesa in the house of his close aide at the time, the Rev. Henryk Jankovski. The trade union leader was a mythic figure for all those who had followed the fight of the Polish people for freedom since the dark days of 1981. Poland once again was a symbol of courage and energy, and its fight for freedom attracted throughout Europe the same kind of sympathy that Polish nationalists had attracted in the nineteenth century. Once again, here was a nation that against all...

  4. one AFGHANISTAN: 9/11 and the War on Terror
    (pp. 1-34)

    September 11, 2001, started in New York as a particularly beautiful September day: there was not a single cloud, the air was transparent, and the light was crisp. I was less than three weeks away from the first anniversary of my joining the United Nations and had no sense of the momentous global changes that would be set in motion by the tragic events of the day. In his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo three months later, Kofi Annan would say of September 11, with some flourish: “We have entered the third millennium through a gate...

  5. two IRAQ: Lingering Damage to the Idea of Collective Action
    (pp. 35-64)

    President George W. Bush fired the opening shots of what was to become the most damaging confrontation between the United States and the United Nations on September 12, 2002. Although the resistance of Saddam Hussein to inspections of Iraq’s weapons programs had already raised the possibility of an attack on Iraq—and we now know that U.S. preparations for a war against Iraq were started soon after 9/11—until that point there was not yet much public debate about a possible U.S. attack. President Bush was in New York to deliver, as president of the host nation, his annual speech...

  6. three GEORGIA: The War That Could Have Been Avoided
    (pp. 65-92)

    Some peacekeeping operations have been in existence for decades, a fact that is often held against peacekeeping in general. Some critics have charged that peacekeeping operations perversely contribute to prolonging conflicts, since the parties lose the incentive to settle their differences. I never accepted the argument, because the cost of each of those peacekeeping operations that have stretched over decades has been much smaller than the cost of even a small war, in both human and financial terms. A “frozen” conflict is still better than a hot conflict. But these critics are nevertheless right to point out the complacency not...

  7. four CÔTE DʹIVOIRE: Elections Are Rarely the Shortest Route to Peace
    (pp. 93-114)

    The news media look at the various crises that the Security Council has to address as if they are independent problems that are dealt with in isolation. Nothing is further from the truth, and I learned in 2003—a year during which the Security Council had to deal with several crises at once—how difficult it is to actually address each crisis on its own merits, and not make it a bargaining chip in a broader game. The year 2003 was, of course, dominated by Iraq, which reverberated on every aspect of the council’s work. The Iraq debacle in the...

  8. five DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO: The Limits of the Use of Force
    (pp. 115-147)

    The idea of humanitarian intervention has an appealing moral clarity. It was not seriously considered in 1994, when the Rwandan genocide happened, however. It was tested in 1999—at the price of deep divisions in the Security Council, which did not authorize the operation—when NATO intervened in Kosovo to stop ethnic cleansing. Four years later, in 2003, the Security Council was again confronted, repeatedly, with the question of intervention. The Iraq war was not a case of humanitarian intervention, and no agreement was reached on the use of force. But while most of the world was focused on Iraq,...

    (pp. 148-160)

    There never has been clarity on the political goals of international involvement in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the immensity of the humanitarian crisis in the country has only contributed to the neglect of politics. The horrors of sexual abuse have drawn international attention, including from Hillary Clinton when she was secretary of state. The plight of Congolese women is only the worst symptom of a deeper political problem: the collapse of state institutions, itself the result of a failed political process. The first peace agreement, the Lusaka Accord of 1999, did not ignore the need for a...

  10. seven SUDAN: Dangers of a Fragmented Strategy for a Fragmented Country
    (pp. 161-181)

    The year 2003 was when the killing began in Darfur. In the UN, only two people had raised the alarm in internal meetings of the Secretariat of the United Nations: Mukesh Kapila, the senior development official of the United Nations in Sudan, and Jan Egeland, the head of humanitarian affairs in New York. But it was only in June 2004 that the crisis in Darfur became a big issue at the United Nations and in the global international debate. Iraq had been the dominant international issue in 2003, and my main focus that year was on the crisis in eastern...

  11. eight DARFUR: Deploying Peacekeepers against All Odds
    (pp. 182-211)

    The strategic consequences of John Garang’s death in July 2005 were not immediately apparent, but it was clear that the negotiating calculus had changed. The international community and the government of Sudan embarked on an increasingly fragmented approach, propelled by the government’s lack of trust in the international community and the international community’s inability to unify its separate policies toward Southern Sudan and Darfur. As a result, engagement between the north and south of Sudan decreased quickly.

    To avoid a power vacuum, Salva Kiir, a Dinka like Garang, was swiftly sworn in as first vice president of Sudan. I had...

  12. nine LEBANON: How to End a War
    (pp. 212-231)

    On July 12, 2006, Hezbollah fired a series of rockets against Israeli Defense Forces and villages in northern Israel; crossing the cease-fire line, Hezbollah fighters attacked an Israeli army patrol. Three Israeli soldiers were killed, and two were abducted. Israel’s response was immediate. It launched a massive air operation, which was gradually extended from south Lebanon to the whole country and supported by artillery shelling and small incursions. Finally, several weeks later, in the last days of the operation, the Israeli Defense Forces launched major ground operations in south Lebanon. The war lasted thirty-three days, during which Hezbollah fired some...

  13. ten KOSOVO: The Long Goodbye
    (pp. 232-252)

    The peacekeeping mission in Kosovo was the first one I visited, and it would be the most pressing issue in my last months in office. For many Europeans and North Americans, Kosovo is a moral cause. The region suffered terribly under Slobodan Milošević’s rule, and supporting Kosovo nationalism is seen by many as a duty, a reaction against the ethical blindness of the international community during the Balkan wars of the 1990s, when little distinction was made between victims and killers under the assumption that a peacekeeping mission should be “neutral.” I never accepted that moral equivalence and always believed...

  14. eleven HAITI: The Difficulty of Helping Others
    (pp. 253-267)

    I heard news of the earthquake in Haiti on January 12, 2010, almost as it happened. My immediate reaction was to write a short e-mail of support to the head of the UN mission in Port-au-Prince, Hedi Annabi. Six months earlier, I had proposed his name for the job to the secretary general, who knew Hedi’s qualities and had immediately decided to appoint him. There was no question that Hedi Annabi was the most experienced and respected peacekeeper in the United Nations. His engagement in peacekeeping had started with the negotiations in Cambodia that led to the end of the...

  15. twelve SYRIA: A World out of Control
    (pp. 268-288)

    Of all peacekeeping missions, the observer mission deployed on the Golan Heights, in the buffer zone separating Israeli-occupied territory from Syrian troops, was for decades one of the safest and most quiet. Despite the rhetoric, Israel and Syria had reached a modus vivendi that they had agreed not to disrupt. In a troubled Middle East, the Austrian troops deployed on Mount Hermon, enduring a sometimes bitter winter but enjoying the snow, could have easily forgotten that a war had been fought on the slopes of the mountain, except for the posts alongside desolate fields signaling the presence of mines. Every...

    (pp. 289-309)

    I served the United Nations as the head of peacekeeping for eight years, the longest commitment of my career, and returned to support Kofi Annan’s work on Syria in 2012, but I still remember my first day as a UN international civil servant. It was October 1, 2000, a Sunday, and I was not at the office, but at a spectacular estate near New York, the former residence of the Whitney family, Greentree. At the request of Kofi Annan, a retreat had been organized to discuss the new roles that the United Nations had just been given in Kosovo and...

    (pp. 310-318)

    As I am writing an epilogue to this book, the crisis in Syria continues unabated. Despite the loss of more than 150,000 civilian lives, the displacement of nearly 8 million people, and the use of chemical weapons, the international community has difficulty agreeing on how to achieve peace and support a political process to bring the bloody war to an end.

    The inability of the international community to come to an agreement on the path forward is influenced by, and stands in contrast to, the 2011 intervention in Libya. Then, after agreement in the Security Council, NATO planes bombed forces...

    (pp. 319-320)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 321-331)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 332-332)