Surviving the United Nations Cover

Surviving the United Nations

The Unexpected Challenge

Robert Bruce Adolph

New Academia, Washington, D.C., 2020, 340 pages

Book Review published on: May 8, 2020

Surviving the United Nations: The Unexpected Challenge is a first-hand account of life as a United Nations (UN) security officer in some of the most dangerous counties on the earth and provides an unvarnished look at the UN’s efforts at facilitating stability while developing appropriate security in several different geographic regions. Robert Adolph shares his personal experiences of fifteen years working as a chief security officer in the UN and elaborates on the tensions between the multinational/multicultural makeup of the UN leadership, along with its ingrained bureaucracy, its proneness to corruption, and its frail senior leadership.

Adolph retired from the U.S. Army after twenty-six years of active duty, including time in the Special Forces, as a military intelligence officer, and as a foreign area officer. After he retired, he accepted an assignment as a UN chief security officer (CSO). Adolph provides a personal narrative of his journey after retirement from U.S. Special Operations Command and into his transition as a CSO, the paradigm changes he encounters when it comes to mission accomplishment, doing the right thing regardless of conflicting protocols, and speaking candidly when rendering assessments.

Adolph’s experience as a CSO included assignments in Sierra Leone, Yemen, and Iraq, with the central idea of the book focused on the 19 August 2003 attack on the UN Headquarters (Canal Hotel) in Baghdad and the security warnings that went unheeded by the UN leadership. He then provides a personal forensic account of the attack and its aftermath because he was in the Canal Hotel when the blast occurred. The rest of the book details the findings that include hidden CSO’s warnings of the headquarters’ vulnerabilities and correspondence he forwarded up the chain urging countermeasures be emplaced immediately.

While Adolph’s experiences with such a bureaucratic organization like the UN come as no real shock to anyone that has served in the military, it is still tremendously disheartening to read how such simple security measure requests were marginalized by decision-makers who second-guessed the on-site leadership, and refused to come to the leadership’s assistance when needed.

Surviving the United Nations is well-written and very easy to read. It flows chronologically and smoothly and provides a list of UN acronyms and abbreviations to keep the reader informed. I recommend this book for all ranks of the military, especially students of peacekeeping operations.

Book Review written by: Lt. Col. George Hodge, U.S. Army, Retired, Lansing, Kansas