OVERRIDE

The Best Intentions

Kofi Annan and the UN in the Era of American World Power

James Traub

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

A man who had won the Nobel Peace Prize, who was widely counted one of the greatest UN Secretary Generals, was nearly hounded from office by scandal. Indeed, both Annan and the institution he incarnates were so deeply shaken after the Bush Administration went to war in Iraq in the face of opposition from the Security Council that critics, and even some friends, began asking whether this sixty-year-old experiment in global policing has outlived its usefulness. Do its failures arise from its own structure and culture, or from a clash with an American administration determined to go its own way in defiance of world opinion?

James Traub, a New York Times Magazine contributor who has spent years writing about the UN and about foreign affairs, delves into these questions as no one else has done before. Traub enjoyed unprecedented access to Annan and his top aides throughout much of this traumatic period. He describes the despair over the Oil-for-Food scandal, the deep divide between those who wished to accommodate American critics and those who wished to confront them, the failed attempt to goad the Security Council to act decisively against state-sponsored ethnic cleansing in Sudan. And he recounts Annan's effort to respond to criticism with sweeping reform--an effort which ultimately shattered on the resistance of U.S. Ambassador John Bolton.

In The Best Intentions, Traub recounts the dramatically entwined history of Kofi Annan and the UN from 1992 to the present. In Annan he sees a conscientious idealist given too little credit for advancing causes like humanitarian intervention and an honest broker crushed between American conservatives and Third World opponents--but also a UN careerist who has absorbed that culture and can not, in the end, escape its limitations.

BOOK EXCERPTS

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Chapter One 
A Greater Magna Carta . . .
 
Institutions of global order are an American invention. A nation that occupied and swiftly conquered a continent of its own had little need of the intricate and perpetually shifting web of alliances that had bound European sovereigns since the Peace of Westphalia in 1648; a nation that understood itself as having been formed and guided by Providence naturally viewed its national interests in universalistic terms--even as it asserted its dominion, brutally at times, over that continent. American leaders scorned the calculations of a Metternich
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REVIEWS

Praise for The Best Intentions

"We watched as the UN failed the people of Iraq in the Oil for Food scandal. We watched as the UN failed innocent people in Rwanda, Bosnia, Darfur in the Sudan, and in the Congo. And we are watching the results of UN failure in South Lebannon. Jim Traub supplies the critical insights for anyone seeking to make sense of the challenges we face."   --Newt Gingrich
 
"Kofi Annan is, without question, the most significant UN Secretary General in 45 years. He is also a complex man occupying a very complicated post. To this important subject, James Traub brings great intelligence, balance, and insight. The result is a book well worth reading."  --Fareed Zakaria, author of The Future of Freedom
 
"Some want the world to be reformed by getting rid of the UN. That would be catastrophic. What the world needs is the UN reformed. In this book, James Traub tells the story of how difficult that is - and why it is so important." --Bono
                                                                                                                         On The Devil's Playground:
 
"Both an engaged civics lesson and a work of social history . . . on every page you learn something." --Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker
 
"A shrewd and rollicking account." --Time

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • James Traub

  • James Traub has been a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine since 1998, where he writes about US foreign policy, the UN, race, and education. He has written three books, including City On A Hill and The Devil's Playground. He lives in New York City.
  • James Traub Greg Martin
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Available Formats and Book Details

The Best Intentions

Kofi Annan and the UN in the Era of American World Power

James Traub

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FROM THE PUBLISHER

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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