In This Review

Parliament of Man: The Past, Present, and Future of the United Nations
Parliament of Man: The Past, Present, and Future of the United Nations
By Paul Kennedy
Random House, 2006, 384 pp

In this sober but sympathetic story of the United Nations' founding and tumultuous first 60 years, Kennedy's expertise in great-power politics and modern global change are brought to bear -- revealing with great clarity why the UN is both deeply flawed and utterly necessary. The early chapters illuminate the remarkable confluence of ideals, historical lessons, power calculations, and pragmatic compromises that marked the UN's founding. The later chapters explore the evolution of the organization's many parts and draw up a balance sheet of successes and failures. Kennedy finds that the UN'S "softer face" -- manifest in its myriad activities supporting social and political advancements and the spread of technical knowledge -- has been at least a partial success, as have many of its efforts at peacekeeping and the promotion of human rights. It is the UN's continuing inability to establish authoritative rules for the use of force that has been its greatest failure. Kennedy does not go as far as he could to delineate the deep crisis that is currently plaguing the UN, but he does put his finger on the fundamental problem: the uncertain and often fleeting ability of great powers to work together.