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During a visit to East Timor last year, a man rushed up to Annan, burst into tears and began recounting everything that was happening. Annan--already overbooked and running late--stayed with him for more than an hour. In Kosovo he sat with a 100-year-old woman who could only say over and over again, "How could this happen to me at my age?" Annan is not a physically expansive man, but he held the woman's hand and listened without moving.
Nane Annan--a slim, strikingly beautiful Swede--had been in love with Annan for a few months when the following happened: "We were walking along on Roosevelt Island [in New York City] one night, and Kofi saw a figure hunched over in a telephone booth. It was off to the side, maybe the kind of thing other people wouldn't notice. There was a young man sobbing in the booth. So Kofi went and talked to him and listened to his problem, something about his father. And for some time after that, we had this young man coming to visit us once, twice a week, to come by and talk to Kofi."
Nane calls his compassion "part of his core. In Swedish we have a word--'cast whole.' That is him." The two met in Geneva. It was, she says, a thunderbolt when she saw him at a friend's party. Their marriage--16 years now--was a second marriage for both. He has two children, a son and a daughter, from his first. It is impossible if you are standing nearby to miss their deep affection. Stories of their romance charm New York's social world. Annan's friend Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., recalls a gala where, long after most guests had gone home, Kofi and Nane stayed out on the dance floor, dancing by themselves.
Nane is the niece of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who saved thousands of Jews during World War II and then disappeared after being captured by the Soviet army in 1945. "When you think of what he did, you ask yourself, 'But how come there were so few Raoul Wallenbergs?'" Annan says. "When you talk to his sister--my mother-in-law--she says he was not a daredevil but a very calm, gentle man. Yet he had a kind of inner strength that let him do what he needed to do to save people. But you ask yourself, 'There were all these other, more powerful people--where were they?'"
It is easy--even popular in some circles--to attack Annan's compassion. The argument is that his warm heart, while praiseworthy on an individual level, would be a disastrous global paradigm. As Shawcross argues in Deliver Us from Evil, his study of U.N. peacekeeping, pure implementation of the Kofi Doctrine would lead to a world with never-ending humanitarian wars. It is an awful paradox that compassion should come at so steep a price. This is why Annan doesn't insist on universal application of his doctrine. What he believes is that the world needs to create a climate in which brutality is the exception rather than the rule. It means using other weapons--sanctions, for instance--to slow killing. And it means giving nations trapped in cycles of violence the tools they need to join the world community. It means, in short, being compassionate.
V. GYEDZI (FAITH)