Reporting from war zones around the globe, acclaimed journalist William Shawcross gives us an unforgettable portrait of a dangerous world and of the brave men and women, ordinary and extraordinary, who risk their lives to make and keep the peace.
The end of the Cold War was followed by a decade of regional and ethnic wars, massacres and forced exiles, and by constant calls for America to lead the international community as chief peace-keeper. The efforts of that community -- identified with the United Nations but often dominated by the world's wealthy nations -- have had mixed results. In Africa, the West is accused of indifference or too little, too late. In Cambodia, the UN presides over free elections, but the results are overridden. In Iraq, Saddam Hussein continues to defy the UN, and in Bosnia and Kosovo, the West acts hesitantly after terrible slaughter and ethnic cleansing.
Shawcross, a veteran of many war zones, has had broad access to global policymakers, including UN secretary general Kofi Annan, high American diplomats, peacekeepers and humanitarian-aid professionals. He has traveled with them to some of the world's most horrifying killing fields. Deliver Us from Evil is his stark, on-the-ground report on the many crises faced by the international community and its servants as they struggle to respond around the world. He brings home the price many have paid attempting to restore peace and help alleviate terrible suffering. He illuminates the risks we face in a complex and dangerous world.
Some critics have concluded that some interventions may prolong conflict and create further casualties. The lesson we learn from ruthless and vengeful warlords the world over is that goodwill without strength can make things worse. Shawcross argues that recent interventions -- in Kosovo and East Timor, for example -- provide reason for concern as well as hope.
Still, the unmistakable message of the past decade is that we cannot intervene everywhere, that not every wrong can be righted merely because the international community desires it, or because we wish to remove images of suffering from our television screens. Nor can we necessarily rebuild failed states in our image. When we intervene, we must be certain of our objectives, sure of popular support and willing to expend the necessary resources -- even lives. If our interventions are to be effective and humane, they must last for more than the fifteen minutes of attention that the media accord to each succeeding crisis.
That is a tall order. As Shawcross concludes, "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."
The end of the Cold War may have reduced the threat of nuclear catastrophe, but shooting wars continued to ravage the planet throughout the '90s. Shawcross (Sideshow, Murdoch, etc.), an award-winning journalist, takes inventory of a decade's worth of conflict, ranging from Cambodia to Rwanda, Croatia to East Timor, and assesses the reactions of governments, the U.N. and humanitarian agencies to the carnage. The book proceeds chronologically, treating several crises in each chapter. In this way, Shawcross replicates the experience of those responsible for organizing the world's response to these fast-breaking, vicious little wars as they broke out, often simultaneously, all around the world. More significant than Shawcross's chronicle of these conflicts and their respective atrocities is his analysis of the ambiguities and paradoxes produced by the wars. He identifies the political forces shaping how the world selects some crises for effective intervention, while others merit platitudes and palliatives. Shawcross also explores how in some instances humanitarian aid, such as food shipments, serve only to supply the combatants and so prolong the suffering of the starving people for whom the food was intended. He gives evidence that while nations claim to rely on the U.N. as a peacekeeping mechanism, they withhold funds and complain of U.N. ineffectiveness. As Shawcross argues in this thoughtful and balanced account, we in the developed world "want more to be put right, but we are prepared to sacrifice less." Shawcross calls for greater consistency in how the developed nations react to '90s-style ethnic wars, so that nations can do something better than merely make the world "a little less horrible." In surveying the past 10 years, he makes a clear-sighted contribution to the policy debates of the next decade and beyond.