Herman Salton

Dangerous Diplomacy

Bureaucracy, Power Politics and the Role of the UN Secretariat in Rwanda

Oxford University Press 2017

New Books in African StudiesNew Books in Genocide StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in World AffairsNew Books Network January 8, 2018 Kelly McFall

I was in graduate school during Bosnia and Rwanda. Like everyone else, I watched the video footage and journalistic accounts that came from these...

I was in graduate school during Bosnia and Rwanda. Like everyone else, I watched the video footage and journalistic accounts that came from these two zones of atrocity. Like everyone else, I wondered how humans could do such things to each other. And like everyone else, I asked in anguish “why can’t we do something.”

Much of the scholarship about Rwanda focuses on this question. Most of it is good, solid, passionate work. but as Herman Salton points out, it largely concentrates on nation-states and their interaction with each other.

Salton’s new book, Dangerous Diplomacy: Bureaucracy, Power Politics and the Role of the UN Secretariat in Rwanda (Oxford UP, 2017), asks ‘why couldn’t we do something’ through a new lens, that of the UN and its various administrative units. Salton, Associate Professor of International Relations at the Asian University for Women reminds us that the UN, rather than being monolithic or powerless, had (and has) its own internal politics and actors. Salton argues that interactions between UN leaders and structures greatly shaped the decisions made by the Security Council and by UN representatives and soldiers on the ground in Rwanda. By doing so, he sheds new light on the decision to create UNAMIR, on the behavior of Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, on the decision to remove UNAMIR early in the crisis and on the long-term impact of Rwanda on UN decisions about humanitarian intervention. Moreover, in the interview itself, Salton draws on his own experience in the UN to highlight the way the culture of the Security Council itself shapes the debates and decisions in that body.

This podcast is part of an occasional series on the genocide in Rwanda. The series began with interviews with Michael Barnett and Sara Brown. Future interviews will feature Erin Jessee, Tim Longman, and others.


Kelly McFall is Professor of History and Director of the Honors Program at Newman University. Hes the author of four modules in the Reacting to the Past series, including The Needs of Others: Human Rights, International Organizations and Intervention in Rwanda, 1994.

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