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The United Nations and the Yugoslav Conflict

Throughout modern history, countries have expected their neighbors to stay out of their internal affairs. The international norm has long been against intervention in another's domestic domain. In international politics, the word intervention itself has acquired an unsavory connotation. National sovereignty has been understood to be the right of governments to do what they wish within their own borders, without interference from others (Mandelbaum, 1994, Summer, pp. 3-18).

In the second half of the twentieth century, as the world became dominated by two nuclear superpowers sharply polarized along ideological lines, the norm of intervention became increasingly polar. It was all the stronger because of nuclear weapons, which gave great-power intervention the potential for global annihilation.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the U.N. began to reverse that norm by censuring the white governments of South Africa and Rhodesia. With the end of the Cold War, that trend has accelerated. A milestone came in the wake of the Gulf war when the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution demanding that Saddam Hussein's government end its repression of people whom the U.N. recognized as Iraq's own citizens. Javier Perez de Cuellar, Boutros-Ghali's predecessor as secretary-general, remarked that the world was "clearly witnessing what is probably an irresistible shift in public attitudes toward the belief that the defense of the oppressed in the name of morality should prevail over frontiers and legal documents" (Mandelbaum, 1994, p. 13).

That shift occurred for two reasons. One is the end of the Cold War, which eliminated one of the main purposes of the norm of non-intervention: the prevention of conflict among great powers trying to impose their own models of legitimacy on other countries. With the collapse of communism, proper domestic order has achieved greater consensus than ever before.

The second reason for the shift in the interna...

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The United Nations and the Yugoslav Conflict. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 03:00, September 21, 2017, from
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