Tested Metal: Canada's Peacekeepers at War by Scott Taylor and Brian Nolan (Ottawa: Esprit de Corps, 1998, 263pp. $29.95)
Soldiers of Diplomacy: The United Nations, Peacekeeping, and the New World Order by Jocelyn Coulon, trans. Phyllis Aronoff and Howard Scott (1994; Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998, xi, 231 pp, $35.00)
Peace in the Midst of Wars: Preventing and Managing International Ethnic Conflicts edited by David Carment and Patrick James (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1998, xi, 333pp, US$39.95)
The Evolution of US Peacekeeping Policy Under Clinton: A Fairweather Friend? by Michael G. MacKinnon (London: Frank Cass, 2000, xx, 203pp, US$59.50)
'IT MAY NOT BE WAR, BUT IT SURE AS HELL AIN'T PEACE.'(f.1) Thus did Major-General S.L. Arnold, the commander of all United States Army forces in the Unified Task Force, describe the situation in Somalia in January 1993. Sadly, those words have a certain resonance for the entire 1990s, arguably the most challenging period in United Nations history. Over the past decade the organization has been extremely busy with peace operations, though the setbacks in Somalia, Rwanda, and the former Yugoslavia have somewhat slackened the demand for its services. New tasks, such as the recently enlarged peacekeeping mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), where 11,000 are scheduled to be deployed,(f.2) and the partnerships with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Kosovo and with the Australians in East Timor, have been as varied as earlier missions, many of which continue to this day in the Middle East, Jammu and Kashmir, and elsewhere.
The interpretations of these events by journalists, scholars, diplomats, and soldiers are as diverse as the operations they discuss. The four books under review here, all either written or edited by Canadians, illustrate some of the current trends in the literature. In their gritty description of peacekeeping duty, Scott Taylor and Brian Nolan provide an emotional punch and a perspective 'from the ground up' that is almost always absent in academic treatments. Jocelyn Coulon, formerly the international affairs editor for Montreal's Le Devior and now head of the Lester B. Pearson Peacekeeping Centre's new office in that city, offers an insightful book that profits from his extensive experience, which includes visits to nine United Nations missions. The essays collected by David Carment and Patrick James examine ethnic conflict from an international relations perspective. Finally, Michael MacKinnon examines the development of Presidential Decision Directive 25, the United States peacekeeping policy statement.
Taylor and Nolan concentrate on the Canadian experience in United Nations missions ranging from Korea to Rwanda, though their major focus is on the former Yugoslavia, where the Canadian Forces were repeatedly compelled to defend themselves. One of the book's objectives is to highlight the heroism and self-sacrifice of Canada's soldiers, particularly the non-commissioned members. We learn, for example, that Private Gilbert Perron, a National Hockey League draft pick whose future 'looked bright' (p 23), was killed on peacekeeping duty in Cyprus in 1974, during Turkey's invasion. Another important theme running through the book is that this example of supreme sacrifice, the 1 Commando Group, Canadian Airborne Regiment in general, and most other examples since then have gone largely unrecognized in Canada.
Also illustrative is the chapter on the 'Medak Pocket,' a major hotspot in western Croatia during the wars of Yugoslav succession. In August 1995, a major Croat offensive and ethic-cleansing campaign began against local Serbs. The Canadians stationed there repeatedly came under and returned fire. Taylor and Nolan describe the terrible emotional and psychological burden placed on the peacekeepers, who witnessed so much death and horror but were powerless to stop it. 'Medak Pocket' opens with the results of this horror on one soldier, who committed suicide while he was on leave in Winnipeg, Manitoba. …