Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Worlds Apart

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Worlds Apart

Article excerpt

Former US Ambassador to Austria Swanee Hunt writes hauntingly of the "grand intentions and missed opportunities" that prevented us from protecting Bosnians.

The city is surrounded. Shelling rains down on the population. Sniper fire, bombs, mortars erupt from all directions. There are no safe havens for civilians; dozens are killed each day. The international community meets, protests, debates what should be done. Powerful players like Russia obstruct action. Sanctions are tightened, but it is citizens who suffer most. Outside nations are willing to offer humanitarian aid, but are conflicted about arming the opposition. The UN organizes peacekeeping forces, but the mandate and rules of engagement are unclear. The siege and the deaths continue ... for years.

This description could be from today's headlines in Syria, but instead it is the siege of Sarajevo in Bosnia 20 years ago. The paralysis of the international community to intervene and prevent the killings of citizens is still haunting.

In Worlds Apart, former Austrian Ambassador Swanee Hunt chronicles her years (1993-1997) on the inside and the outside of the corridors of war in Bosnia. As the US Ambassador located in Vienna, she sat at embassy dinners, met with European and US government officials, engaged in countless discussions of what should be done. She also used her position, both geographic and political, to visit with the citizens of Bosnia dozens of times in the country and to bring citizens outside the country to meet with each other.

"Worlds Apart" - part memoir, part foreign policy text - is narrated in an informal, first person voice, with 80 vignettes that present the story from the inside point of view of citizens, humanitarian aid workers, human rights workers, and journalists and from the outside view of policymakers, diplomats, military leaders, and international politicians, most of whom had limited interaction with the citizens living through the ordeal.

"This is a book about Bosnia - and beyond. Its lessons reach to Egypt, Iraq, Korea, Congo ... any place we as an 'international community' try to stabilize a chaotic world," Ambassador Hunt writes in the Prologue. "It is a story of grand intentions and missed opportunities, heroes and clowns, and a well-meaning foreign policy establishment deaf to the voices of everyday people."

Hunt draws multiple lessons throughout the book, but the overall lesson is that solutions must include both inside and outside actors. …

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