Michael J. Matheson was principal deputy legal adviser to the U.S. Department of State during 1990–2000, and acting legal adviser during substantial parts of that period. Currently he is a member of the international law faculty of the George Washington University School of Law in Washington, D.C. and a member of the UN International Law Commission. He is also on the board of editors of the American Journal of International Law and the executive council of the American Society of International Law. He was a senior fellow at the United States Institute of Peace during 2001–2002.
It has been described variously as everything from a global legislature to a self-important yet ineffectual debating society. And although the United Nations Security Council may have resembled the latter in many respects during the Cold War, when vetoes and disagreements among the permanent members often stymied the Council’s work, the end of the Cold War made it possible for the Council to begin exercising the full range of its legal authority under the UN Charter and to begin expanding that authority to meet the new challenges of the post–Cold War period.
In this book, Michael Matheson examines the Security Council’s new, expansive exercise of legal authority in this period and its devising of bold and innovative methods—coercive and noncoercive—to stop nascent wars and “threats to the peace,” including international terrorism. He also surveys the many roles assumed by the Council in postconflict environments, acting in a variety of ways to rebuild a war-torn country or territory and reintegrate it into the world community—from prosecuting war criminals, to providing compensation for war victims, to exercising governmental authority in postconflict territories such as Cambodia, Bosnia, and, recently, Kosovo and East Timor. The author also examines the more recent controversies over Iraq, in which disagreements among the permanent members have made decisive UN action difficult, and the investigations into fraud and abuse in various UN programs.