Boutros Boutros-Ghali seemed born to be a great man. A Copt, that is to say an Egyptian Christian, he had the attributes to speak for this beleaguered minority. An aristocratic manner came naturally to him; he came from a family with a belief in service to the country. In the days of the British, his grandfather had been Egyptian Prime Minister, a liberal who was murdered for his beliefs by a Muslim fanatic. His father in turn became a cabinet minister. Boutros-Ghali himself had something of a pained expression, as if unable to credit the stupidities of the human race. A professor at Cairo University, he lectured in politics. His English and French were as good as certificates for an old-time cosmopolitan. His wife was Jewish. It is often observed that he was ready-made to be caricatured in a Lawrence Durrell novel.
Anwar Sadat made him Foreign Minister, and took him to Jerusalem for the break-through in 1977 for the peace treaty with Israel. This provided the credentials to become secretary general of the United Nations in 1992. Among the horrors of that decade was genocide in Rwanda and the break-up of Yugoslavia. He maintained that American foreign policy was “utterly confused” and this accounted for a sense of failure. He certainly was dismissive of President Clinton, and he and Madeleine Albright engaged in mutual enmity. It was unusual that criticism of the United States’s role in the world should come from an elegant and fastidious conservative, but so it was. R.I.P.