Documents -- mostly but not exclusively from the United Nations -- are the star here, taking up 700 pages. Implicitly recognizing that the United Nations had only a minor role until the fighting ended in February 1991, nine-tenths of the documents date from the period since then, presenting the sanctions regime in all its military and economic complexity. They contain very little legalese or U.N. self-importance and lots of substance, including much hard-hitting analysis (a human rights report by Max van der Stoel, for example, cites Iraq as "one huge prison").

A reader looking for Boutros-Ghali's few perfunctory introduction lines might look in vain and conclude that they got omitted. Not so; the secretary-general is credited for the fine 113-page analysis that opens the volume. Lest it be assumed that this be a courtesy for the U.N.'s chief executive, note that he cut his teeth as a professor of international law and, in addition to other books in this same U.N. series, compiled prior such books. But Boutros-Ghali's text, for all its virtues, is prisoner to the unique U.N. perspective. The first paragraph lauds that organization for acting "as a powerful instrument for international peace and security." The second presents the Iraqi assault on Kuwait as "the first instance" since 1945 when "one Member State sought to completely overpower and annex another" -- a bit of revisionist history that ignores other such instances (Israel and Bosnia) where more controversy reigns.