The horror stories parade across the front pages and into our living rooms via TV. On the evening news - East Timor, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Rwanda, Chechnya - and Shawcross (Murdoch, 1993, etc.) has covered most of them.
At the outset of his new book, the Polk Award winner admits that this is an at best fragmentary picture of a world in which chaotic conflict has become the norm - a particularly brutal replacement for the comparatively ordered bipolarity of the Cold War. Shawcross attempts to examine the place of humanitarianism in general, and of the United Nations in particular, in this grisly new world of low-tech genocide and ethnic cleansing. A survey of UN peacekeeping activities over the past decade, the book jumps from crisis to crisis, much like the men and women who are its subject. Failure to failure, too, as the UN is hamstrung repeatedly by the mixed motives of its member states, especially the five permanent members of the Security Council - the US, Great Britain, France, Russia, and China.