In This Review

The Ultimate Crime: Who Betrayed the U.N. and Why
The Ultimate Crime: Who Betrayed the U.N. and Why
By Linda Melvern
Allison & Busby, 1995, 442 pp.

The sensationalist promotion of this book, from the picture of a decaying baby’s corpse on the front cover to the title’s suggestion that the author has uncovered a deep crime at the heart of the organization, belie what turns out to be a rather conventional telling of the U.N. story. As it turns out, the guilty parties that betrayed the United Nations are -- surprise! -- the permanent members of the Security Council, who failed to support U.N. efforts to engage in peace enforcement or prevent genocide. While engagingly written and full of colorful detail, the analysis falls far short of Rosemary Righter’s recent volume on the same subject, Utopia Lost. The author suggests, for example, that the tragedies in Somalia, Bosnia, and Rwanda were all readily preventable but for malfeasance of the member states. She ducks the questions of whether an institution such as the United Nations is really capable of moving beyond peacekeeping to peace enforcement, for which other international mechanisms may be better suited.