Born in 1945, the United Nations came to life in the Arab world. It was there that the UN dealt with early diplomatic challenges that helped shape its institutions such as peacekeeping and political mediation. It was also there that the UN found itself trapped in, and sometimes part of, confounding geopolitical tensions in key international conflicts in the Cold War and post–Cold War periods, such as hostilities between Palestine and Iraq and between Libya and Syria. Much has changed over the past seven decades, but what has not changed is the central role played by the UN. This book’s claim is that the UN is a constant site of struggle in the Arab world and equally that the Arab world serves as a location for the UN to define itself against the shifting politics of its age. Looking at the UN from the standpoint of the Arab world, this volume collects some of the finest scholars and practitioners writing about the potential and the problems of a UN that is framed by both the promises of its Charter and the contradictions of its member states. This is a landmark book—a close and informed study of the UN in the region that taught the organization how to do its many jobs.
"Reviled for partitioning Palestine and then standing by as its people were uprooted and dispossessed, yet revered for its tireless efforts to contain the damage and restore human dignity, the United Nations, with its multiple organs and divergent agendas, often brings to Arab minds the two faces of Janus. To the undiscerning eye, those who inflict the wounds in battle and those who try to save the wounded look the same in blood-stained shirts. Karim Makdisi and Vijay Prashad's book offers remarkable insight into a complex and multifaceted United Nations, disentangling the threads of its intense and often paradoxical engagement with the Arab world."—Rima Khalaf, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia
"The operational UN came of age and has stumbled into old age in the turbulent politics of the Middle East. Land of Blue Helmets
is a fascinating set of essays by first-class analysts. A must-read for anyone interested in the problems and prospects of multilateralism in general and multilateralism in the Middle East in particular."—Thomas G. Weiss, Presidential Professor, The Graduate Center, City University of New York
"This collection of timely essays is an important addition to the literature on the United Nations and the Arab world. Finally, in one volume, we have a comprehensive review of the UN’s complex role in the region. The authors assembled by Makdisi and Prashad mix insightful analysis of the strengths and limits of the organization with a fascinating account of the political context in which it operates. The book is a must-read for scholars and practitioners alike."—Ian Johnstone, Professor of International Law, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University