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Dubious Mandate : A Memoir of the UN in Bosnia, Summer 1995 Hardcover – April 21, 1999

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Corwin, chief UN political officer in Sarajevo during the summer of 1995, records a unique perspective seldom mentioned in published memoirs and scholarship. He details UN efforts to provide Sarajevo humanitarian aid and utilities at a time of resurgent fighting culminating in the NATO bombardment and the Dayton Accords. Corwin records the cynical opposition to his mission from all sides, including, surprisingly, the United States and the Bosnian government. The formers preoccupation with domestic politics and the latters cultivation of its victim status are confirmed in private conversations. Ironically, Bosnian opposition to UN efforts to evacuate the Muslim safe area of Srebrenica contributed to catastrophic civilian slaughter there. This valuable document exposes the motives of all involved parties, describes the UNs impossible mandate, and details the perversely destructive impact of economic sanctions. Corwins objectivity and his self-criticism may be disputed, but they cannot be denied. Recommended for academic and larger public libraries.Zachary T. Irwin, Pennsylvania State Univ., Erie
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Given the United Nations' continuing efforts in Bosnia, this narrative of the author's service as a UN political officer will circulate. Like Boutros-Ghali's Unvanquished , Corwin's memoir is critical of the U.S., the way Bosnia was covered by the Western media, and the NATO bombing. When Corwin was in Bosnia, UN forces served in a peacekeeping role; after the bombing and the Dayton peace agreement, they assumed a more proactive if ill-defined peacemaking role. Corwin's book is based on notes the author made while he was stationed in Bosnia; his later comments are enclosed in brackets. Corwin is not one of the many outsiders who view the people of the Balkans as incapable of getting along together; he traces the war's origin to World War II, rather than the Middle Ages. Corwin insists, however, that "the leaders of all the various factions in Bosnia were merely gangsters wearing coats and ties." Mary Carroll

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books (April 21, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0822321262
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822321262
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,573,648 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 10, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Philip Corwin is not a professional apologist, advocacy journalist, propagandist or self-aggrandizing Imperial shill, the kind one would expect writing a book about Bosnia. Corwin, an American in UN service, was the head of UNPROFOR Civil Affairs in Sarajevo during those crucial months of 1995 when the UN became NATO's handmaiden. As a result, he is a disillusioned, embittered witness to Imperial ascendance.
...Right from its very title, Dubious Mandate gets to the heart of the matter. As the Bosnian War unravels, so does the UN peacekeeper mission, whose mandate is self-contradictory, ill-defined, and under constant political and military pressure. From his position in Sarajevo, Corwin witnessed the disintegration of the last shreds of UN credibility and impartiality. His journal entries read like a Greek tragedy, with growing awareness of the impending disaster literally rolling in over the hills.
Arguably the best features of the book are Corwin's "hindsight" notes. Unlike other memoirs, Dubious Mandate
contains the author's reflections alongside the original writing, clearly marked to avoid confusion. This provides the readers with an insight into how Corwin thought then, and how subsequent events and understandings impacted his earlier opinions. It is exceptionally difficult to write an honest memoir, avoiding the temptation to spruce up the original notes with hindsight. Dubious Mandate has found a way, and it works extraordinarily well.
Corwin does not mince words. He is not anti- or pro- anyone, often describing the local Balkans leaders as "thugs in suits." But his insistence that there were legitimate concerns among the Serbs (even though their methods were reprehensible) and that the Sarajevo Muslims were far from angels, earns Corwin the undying hatred of the international diplomats, western Press, and, of course, the Izetbegovic regime.
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14 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 4, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Philip Corwin's captivating memoir reveals the dark secrets of the UN mission in Bosnia during its last days. By mid-1995, the UN had become resigned to playing mercenaries to the Muslim government in Sarajevo, harassed by the cheerleading international press, pushed around by Washington and held hostage by the local gagster-leaders. Corwin describes how the mission degenerated from a supposedly good-faith, impartial peacekeeping effort into an open war against one belligerent. His notes reveal the crippling internal politics of UNPROFOR and the enormous pressure of NATO to come in, guns blazing. Corwin escapes the temptation to moralize and preach to both the world and the Bosnians. Instead, he exposes the malicious incomprehension of the situation on part of the foreign factors, and blasts the thuggery of Bosnian leaders - Serbs, Muslims and Croats alike. Though he does not absolve the Serbs from a shred of responsibility for the horrors of the Bosnian war, by giving them a voice at all he has probably risked vitriolic condemnation by various "Muslim partisans," among whom you will find some familiar names... Corwin's book is not THE ONE BOOK you need to understand the Bosnian tragedy. But between him and general MacKenzie, the UN side of it is told as it was. If you want to know how today's world of mercenary peacekeeping and random bombing came to be, read this book. It is a must.
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Ever wondered why the UN "failed" in Bosnia, only to be replaced by NATO? Ever thought about what causes UN missions to fail in some situations (as in Bosnia) and succeed in others (as in East Timor)? From historical evidence it appears that there is no inherent institutional flaw in the UN structure but that the Security Council, by assigning different mandates and rules of engagement, determines the likely outcome of various missions. Who interests does this kind of "peacekeeping" serve?
This book adds to our understanding of the critical role of outside factors in the partition of Yugoslavia. It sheds some light on the reasons for (intended? ) failiure of UNPROFOR and the subsequent insertion of NATO. It is required reading for anyone trying to understand the Yugoslav mayhem beyond superficiality of mainstream media coverage.
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