The death of the charismatic Brazilian chief of the U.N. Mission to Iraq in a 2003 terrorist bombing symbolized both the U.N.'s haplessness—he died because rescuers lacked the training and equipment to free him from the rubble—and its idealism. In this sprawling biography, Vieira de Mello's life symbolizes the tragic contradictions of coping with humanitarian crises. Journalist Power, author of the Pulitzer-winning The Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, follows Vieira de Mello through a U.N. career spent in hot spots like Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Kosovo. His tasks were many: implementing peace accords, settling refugees, overseeing elections, running the government of East Timor. In each posting, he confronts a hydra-headed monster of communal violence and poverty, plus difficulties compounded by U.N. red tape, miserly budgets and uncaring Western governments. Agonizing dilemmas abound. Should refugees be fed or sent home? Should U.N. peacekeepers observe or intervene? Should past atrocities be prosecuted or overlooked? Playing by ear, Vieira de Mello charts an erratic course through these conundrums. Sometimes he's a human rights zealot, sometimes he cozies up to the Khmer Rouge; sometimes he negotiates with the Serbs, sometimes he wants to bomb them. Vieira de Mello comes off as a charming diplomat, a canny politician and an inspiring leader, and the author celebrates his flexibility and pragmatism (while criticizing his failures). Power wants to extract lasting lessons for the international community's efforts to head off humanitarian catastrophes and mend failed states from his experience. Unfortunately, it's hard to discern through his improvisations any systematic approach to nation building or to such vexed issues as humanitarian military intervention and regime change. The lack of perspective isn't helped by the biographical format, as the peripatetic Vieira de Mello jets from one conflagration to the next, then on to a romantic getaway with a mistress or to give a murky speech on Kant. We get the impression that U.N. missions are inevitably a hopeless muddle unless Sergio, with his unique talents, parachutes in to fix things; the book may thus inadvertently encourage critics of the U.N.-style interventionism that Power supports. Readers will gain an appreciation of Vieira de Mello's gifts, but not the method to his magic. B&w photos. (Mar. 6)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Samantha Power, a professor at Harvard, met Sergio Vieira de Mello when she was a journalist in Bosnia in 1994. Although he charmed her as he did everyone else, she has written a balanced biography of the flawed but dedicated and likable man. While Power impressed the critics with her research, she failed to convince all of them of her arguments. Several reviewers also noted that Powerâs writing, laden with detail and subtle layering, doesnât rise to the level of her Pulitzer Prizeâ"winning A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide (2002) until the very end, when she recounts Vieira de Melloâs last moments. As much a critique of the United Nations and its policies as the story of a man battling injustice, Chasing the Flame, despite being cited as a somewhat slow read, is a significant contribution to our understanding of global affairs and the future of peacekeeping.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
I had the privilege to meet the man and I think Miss Power Captures his soul, which was not easiy. Or the period in histroty where live and work.Published 3 months ago by Gilda La Paz
His story could not have been better told. Samantha powers reveals the genius of his diplomatic mind, and uncovers the tragedy and incompetence behind the failure to save his life.Published 4 months ago by Z. Alani
Brilliantly written, with a title that beautifully reflects the thrust of the book, it draws a spell-binding portrait of an idealist, dedicated to his work and the goals of the UN. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Claude Forthomme (Nougat)
This is not only a deeply moving and interesting biography, but also a thorough and objective study of the UN's performance in the humanitarian realm. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Fusun Turkmen
Everybody should read this book and get to know the life of these people who live to bring the peace.Published 18 months ago by Valquiria Missell
The life story of Mr. Viera de Mello is worth to be told, a life of international public service! Ms. Power also provide an outstanding view of international politics. Read morePublished on July 4, 2013 by Rodrigo Aguirre
Sergio Viera de Mello is shown as a man seeking to find solutions that would work for the best of the most vulnerable, adapting some of his approaches over time; restless, humane... Read morePublished on June 25, 2013 by Valery Kavaleuski