Soldiers of Diplomacy: The United Nations, Peacekeeping, and the New World Order


231 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-0899-2
DDC 341.5'23




Translated by Phyllis Aronoff and Howard Scott
Reviewed by Grant Dawson

Grant Dawson is a Ph.D. candidate specializing in military history at
Carleton University.


Written by a journalist with Le Devoir (Montreal), this stimulating
volume is the result of numerous interviews with key figures, visits to
no less than seven peacekeeping operations, and solid secondary
research. While documents have been added to bring the bibliography up
to date, the interviews and most of the research date from 1990 to 1994,
when the book was originally written and published as Les casques blues.

Coulon is concerned with several post–Cold War peace support
operations and what they tell us about the inner workings of today’s
United Nations (UN). He examines the operations in Cambodia (UNTAC), the
Western Sahara (known as MINURSO, the French acronym), the former
Yugoslavia (UNPRO-FOR I and II), and Somalia (UNOSOM I and II and the
U.S.-led UNITAF). Soldiers of Diplomacy is more a study of contemporary
international relations than a work of history, which helps explain its
presentist subject matter and emphasis.

Coulon is able to convey complicated ideas simply, making his book
useful for the casual reader as well as the specialist. Most of the
problems that Coulon sees in the UN organization and peacekeeping stem
from state behavior. UNTAC demonstrates that when an operation is
properly funded and outside political interference is kept to a minimum,
the UN can be a truly effective organization. In contrast, command and
control—by the UN headquarters in New York of its operations in the
field and by states of their troops—is often a major problem, as
demonstrated by events in Bosnia and Somalia. An uncooperative host has
meant massive difficulties for MINURSO, while Somalia suffered from the
meddling of a great power.

If there is a governing theme to this book, it is probably that we get
the UN we deserve. There is always the potential that Lester B.
Pearson’s vision of the blue helmets as “soldier–diplomats” will
be realized in each peacekeeping mission, Coulon argues, but the real
outcome depends on the state actors who make up the UN and supply its


Coulon, Jocelyn., “Soldiers of Diplomacy: The United Nations, Peacekeeping, and the New World Order,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 18, 2024,