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Interventions: A Life in War and Peace [Hardcover]

Kofi Annan
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
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Book Description

4 Oct 2012

Over forty years of service to the United Nations - the last ten as Secretary-General - Kofi Annan has been at the centre of the major geopolitical events of our time. Drawing on his recollections of major figures from Tony Blair to George W. Bush, Yasser Arafat to Yitzhak Rabin, Saddam Hussein to Nelson Mandela, INTERVENTIONS offers a unique, behind-the-scenes view of global diplomacy during one of the most consequential eras in recent history.

With eloquence and immediacy, Annan recounts the highs and lows of his years at the United Nations: from shuttle-diplomacy during crises such as Kosovo, Lebanon and Israel-Palestine to the disastrous and wrenching battles over the Iraq War and the creation of the landmark Responsibility to Protect doctrine. He writes with unprecedented candour about the organization's ongoing challenges and failed efforts - the tragedies of Somalia, Rwanda and Bosnia, continuing violence in the Middle East, the endurance of AIDS and endemic poverty on his home continent, and much else.

Yet Annan embeds these crises within the context of global politics, revealing how, time and again, the nations of the world have retreated from the UN's radical mandate. He makes a passionate case for a United Nations that serves the interests of individuals around the globe rather than of its member states, and that intervenes, rather than stands by, in the face of humanitarian crisis. Ultimately, Annan shows readers a world where solutions are available, if we have the will and courage to see them through.

An unparalleled personal history of international statecraft, INTERVENTIONS is as much a memoir as a guide to world order - past, present, and future.


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane (4 Oct 2012)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 1846142970
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846142970
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.4 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 202,708 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

A fluent, compelling account... clear-eyed and honest... Annan emerges as an effective and charismatic embodiment of the UN's ideals (The Times)

A taut and timely memoir... Annan and his co-author, Nader Mousavizadeh, a former aide, embody the UN at its idealistic and yet level-headed best (Alec Russell Financial Times)

Annan doesn't shy away from admitting that he made mistakes, or that the UN needs to reform its outdated administrative structures. Yet he mounts a passionate, impressive defence of the organisation... The UN may be imperfect, but this powerful memoir shows that it is vital (Ian Critchley Sunday Times)

In this thought-provoking new memoir, Kofi Annan describes the peaceful and more equitable world that is within our grasp, and offers his candid perspective on the challenges we must overcome to get there. Interventions is a powerful reminder that the United Nations still matters - and must continue to matter if we want our new century to be more free, peaceful and prosperous than the last (Bill Clinton)

Kofi Annan is a great global leader of our time. This wonderful book gives the readers a lucid and enjoyable understanding of the kind of reasoning and commitment that has made Annan such a force for good in the troubled world in which we live. (Amartya Sen)

Kofi Annan has been a powerful voice for the poor and a tireless advocate for peace. As a catalyst for international security and human rights, Annan reminds us that we, as a global community, are more alike than different. His life's work demonstrates what is possible when we focus on the universal values of equality, tolerance and human dignity (Bill Gates)

Written as part autobiography, part history lesson, [Interventions] is infused with Mr. Annan's accounts of private encounters with world leaders (The New York Times)

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More secretary than general 20 Oct 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
My guess is this one of those weighty coffee table books with a buying to reading ratio of about 5:1. In this regard, it shares some noble company with other autobiographies of the great and good. Which is a profound shame. For about half way though this book, suspicion that this is yet another attempt to (re)write history lest future historians take a less positive view of this multilateral era, gives way to a growing admiration of a man who faces an impossible task. For the exercise of leadership requires followership, and the position of Secretary-General is more secretary than general; more servant than master. So it with increasing respect that I read of his attempts to steer a course through the messy politics of what many regard as the anachronism of the UN Security Council.

I am also exercised by the political imperative to engage with leaders who seem set on destruction of their own people, and/or rape their countries in the odious pursuit of personal wealth. Yet he demonstrates that to engage is not to condone. And his honest admission that UN diplomacy is rarely successful yet rarely wasted provides a reality check for those who seek a more ideologically pure role for the UN.

These are lessons that become clearer towards the end of 'Interventions', and I confess that I only truly began to appreciate this book - and this man - when I reached chapters 7 and 8, addressing wars and conflict in the Middle East and Iraq.

As with many books which attempt to provide a brief summary of events, the narrative becomes somewhat simplistic at times; on numerous occasions he uses the phrase, "I decided...", which surely belies the complex process of consultation required, and perhaps plays down the contribution of many who surely provided advice and ideas.

But this is a sobering and important read. And a fascinating insight into the world of the UN in the 21st century.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A remarkable man in an impossible job 7 May 2013
By Mark Meynell TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
There's no disputing Kofi Annan's political stature or integrity of purpose. Nor can the challenges of his 10 years in one of the hardest jobs in politics be underestimated. I imagine that being UN Secretary-General is akin to being Archbishop of Canterbury - you are neither president nor pope, and so any effect you might have depends on the canny use of influence, impartiality and persuasion, rather than actual constitutional power. I can't even begin to imagine how frustrating and difficult the job must be, let alone doing it for so long.

That said, if Annan is to be believed from this account, there were some encouraging achievements from his time (East Timor independence from Indonesia, Kenya negotiations) despite the many debacles (eg Iraq War, Rwanda genocide while he was director of peace keeping). At times this book feels more like a case for the defence than anything else (but then perhaps all political memoirs are like that?). We certainly don't really get to know him as a man - there are precious hints of his upbringing (his father sounds a fascinating and remarkable person in his own right), little chinks of light into his own family. For instance, it would be fascinating to hear more about his Swedish second wife, Nane, who it transpires is the niece of the renowned Raoul Wallenberg (who rescued scores of Jews from the Holocaust), p258. So the book's subtitle seems a little misleading. "A life in war and peace" suggests something more autobiographical - instead what we get is more an account of "a career in war and peace". For all that, this book offers a fascinating window into closed rooms and private discussions.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fiddling while Rome burns... 8 Dec 2012
By FictionFan TOP 100 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a book that everyone should read, voluntarily or not, just to see how incompetent, ineffectual and complacent our 'leaders' really are.

The book is well written, clearly laid out around a number of themes and obviously heartfelt. Kofi Annan himself is obviously a decent man, hard working, caring and diplomatic. But to what end? This book is a record of failure after failure, procrastination, buck-passing and extraordinary complacency; of societies riven by dictatorship and despotism while the UN agonises over methodology. A story of democratically elected leaders failing time and again to act in a way that would encourage improved security in the trouble spots of the world, failing to live up to promises on aid, failing to provide troops for peace-keeping missions, failing to do the one thing we pay them to do - that is, lead.

However good Annan's intentions may have been, even he can find very few successes to point to, and as head of an organisation with a $10 billion per annum budget and 44,000 staff (figures he gives himself) that's a fairly damning indictment of the UN and the international community in general. Drawing up policies and goals is one thing, living up to them quite another. But again and again Annan congratulates himself and the UN on simply coming up with a form of words or getting people round a table - the process is celebrated regardless of outcome.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read for the most part
I should begin by saying this book is worth the read for anyone curious about the operations of the UN and international diplomacy. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Kay
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect for those interested in how international law works in...
This is a great behind-the-scenes look at the inner workings of one of the planet's foremost international bodies. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Kelly-ann Semper
4.0 out of 5 stars An Eventful Life
Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has penned his memoirs of the time he spent as one the most prominent 'mediators' in the world. Read more
Published 4 months ago by G. J. Oxley
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating insight into the darker side of international relations
These memoirs from Kofi Annan during his time working in the United Nations in several posts involved with interventions in conflict areas, including his two terms as Secretary... Read more
Published 5 months ago by N. Gratton
4.0 out of 5 stars This book does not inspire confidence
As a politics graduate I was keen to read Annan's view (and excuses) for all that has happened during his term of offcie as Secretary General of the United Nations and on that... Read more
Published 6 months ago by J.R.Hartley
5.0 out of 5 stars First rate memoir
I wasn't sure what to expect when I ordered this book. Would it be a dry, lifeless tome or something much more interesting? Well I'm pleased to say it was the latter. Read more
Published 7 months ago by D. P. Mankin
3.0 out of 5 stars Aptly titled memoir from the former UN head
I ordered this ona bit of a whim really... I figured anyone who'd won the Nobel Peace Prize and been head of the UN for 10 years must have something interesting to say. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Andrew Sutherland
5.0 out of 5 stars Where's There No Will, There's No Way
Kofi Annan was born into a family of United Nations. His father worked for a multi-national company, had four wives (although it's not clear whether they were all at the same... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Neutral
5.0 out of 5 stars A caring person
Kofi Annan is one of those people who for me is like Mandela and Gandhi, not perfect but he does really care about people and what is happening to them. Read more
Published 9 months ago by The walker
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but depressing
Annan, the first UN insider to achieve the position of Secretary General, writes well and his book demonstrates his acute understanding of the responsibilities the UN should... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Marand
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