Unvanquished: A U.S.-U.N. Saga

The head of the United Nations has one of the hardest jobs in the world -- as the last holder of that office, Boutros-Ghali, reminds the reader repeatedly throughout this extended apologia. In a grumbling voice, he details his five-year battle with Washington, a battle that ended with a U.S. veto of his reelection bid, making him the only secretary-general ever denied a second term. Boutros-Ghali complains that his job was impossible: member states made infinite, conflicting demands without ever giving him the mandate, troops, or money to accomplish them. The United States emerges as an implacable foe, variously "bizarre," "two-faced," "arrogant," and "sinister" (and too cheap to pay its bills). Former U.S. Ambassador Madeleine Albright gets special criticism for her clumsy mendacity, as does the American media, which dutifully reprinted the State Department's lies. World history -- the wars in Yugoslavia, Iraq, even Rwanda -- is relegated to the back burner as Boutros-Ghali describes America's efforts to destroy him, efforts motivated more by domestic politics and paranoid black-helicopter conspiracy theories than by Boutros-Ghali's failings. The United States probably deserves most of his criticisms, but one wonders how such a grizzled statesman could have been surprised by the rough-and-tumble deceptions of diplomacy.

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