Sergio Vieira de Mello - a humanitarian, peacemaker and state builder - was at centre of the most significant geopolitical crises of the last half-century. Born in 1948, just as the post - World War II order was taking shape, he died in a terrorist attack on UN headquarters in Iraq in 2003 as the battle lines in the twenty first-century's first great polarizing struggle were being drawn. This is a dual biography: the story of a brave and enigmatic man who never stopped learning and had a thirty-year head start in thinking about the central challenges of our time, and the biography of a perilous world whose ills are too big to ignore, but also too complex to manage quickly or cheaply. Even as Vieira de Mello arranged food deliveries, organized refugee returns, or negotiated with warlords, he pressed his colleagues to join him in grappling with such questions as: When should killers be engaged, and when should they be shunned? When is military force justified? How can outsiders play a role in healing broken people and broken places? Vieira de Mello did not have the luxury of simply posing these questions; he had to find answers, apply them, and live with the consequences.
"Chasing the Flame" brings us deep into the thorniest episodes of recent world history. We wade into the conflagration in the Middle East by joining Vieira de Mello on his troubleshooting assignment in Lebanon after Israel's 1982 invasion. We see the lasting damage done by the proxy wars of the Cold War as we watch Vieira de Mello try to tame the murderous Khmer Rouge. We relive the explosion of sectarian and ethnic militancy as we track his efforts to negotiate an end to the slaughter in Bosnia and the reign of genocidal 'refugee warriors' in Congo. We grasp the complexity of rebuilding and governing war-torn societies as we endure the frustrations of his quasi-colonial governorships of Kosovo and East Timor. And we see how terrorism was fueled and Iraq was lost, by witnessing his struggles as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and as UN representative in Baghdad, where he fell victim to the country's first major suicide bomb. Readers of "Chasing the Flame" will recognize the particular mixture of deep reporting and incisive analysis that Samantha Power uses to mine Vieira de Mello's life for the lessons it offers each of our own.
In this gripping and finely reasoned book, Power reveals Sergio Vieira de Mello's powerful legacy of pragmatism and humanity in an age sorely in need of both.
Samantha Power is Anna Lindh Professor of Practice of Global Leadership and Public Policy Practice at Harvard University's School of Government. Her book, "A Problem from Hell": America and the Age of Genocide (2003), was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction, the National Book Critics Circle Award for general non-fiction, the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize and the Council on Foreign Relations' Arthur Ross Prize for the best book in U.S. foreign policy. Power is also the recipient of two National Magazine Awards. A graduate of Yale University and the Harvard Law School, she moved to the United States from Ireland at the age of nine.