In This Review

The United Nations and Civil Wars
The United Nations and Civil Wars
Edited by Thomas G. Weiss
Lynne Rienner, 1995, 233 pp.
International Organizations and Civil Wars
International Organizations and Civil Wars
By Hilaire McCoubrey and Nigel D. White
Dartmouth, 1995, 294 pp.

These two books analyze U.N. interventions in civil wars of member states, spurred by recent crises in Somalia, Yugoslavia, Cambodia, and elsewhere. The volume edited by Weiss focuses on the multifunctional character of recent peacekeeping operations -- that is, U.N. involvement in civilian administration rather than just security operations -- which it argues is too often overlooked. The McCoubrey-White volume expatiates at great length on the international legal justifications for the expansion of U.N. involvement from external to internal conflicts. Of the two books, the former is more useful; rather than dwelling on the legalisms of intervention, it provides helpful analyses of actual U.N. operations. Both books chronicle the United Nations' weaknesses and failures; neither squarely confronts whether there is a fundamental flaw in the entire concept of U.N. peace enforcement, or whether the organization has become a dodge for nation-states seeking to evade international obligations.