The United Nations, long maligned for its inability to live up to the expectations of its founders, finally came into its own in the late 1980s. In 1987, to the surprise of many, the U.N. Security Council called for a cease-fire between Iran and Iraq after seven years of warfare. Within a year such a cease-fire was in place. Two years later, when Iraq invaded Kuwait, the Security Council once again functioned as it was intended and served as the forum for organizing the force that expelled Saddam Hussein's army from Kuwait.
How the United Nations came to perform its intended task so well is the story of this well-informed book. The author was an insider and he is therefore able to provide a feel for the nature of the debates and arguments that went on behind closed doors. There are few big surprises, and there is little in the way of broad generalization. Some who were involved in the negotiations have noted that the author has slighted the Saudi role in helping persuade the Iraqis to accept the cease-fire resolution, and there will doubtless be other quibbles over points of emphasis. But this is certainly an ably written diplomatic history that will be referred to for years to come by those who want to understand how the United Nations is meant to operate.