Legally, the government of El Salvador was not justified in its invasion of Honduras in 1969. This is the principal conclusion of Rowles’s objective account of the hundred-hour Honduras–El Salvador War and especially of its ramifications for international law.
The book provides a thoroughgoing analysis of the Salvadoran argument that intervention was necessary to protect the human rights of the 300,000 Salvadorans living in Honduras. Rowles, a professor of international law, carefully considers the charters of the Organization of American States and the United Nations on intervention and human rights and the arguments of Salvadoran and Honduran diplomats. He argues that El Salvador had not exhausted legal remedies before the invasion and was obstructive and dilatory after the two nations had agreed upon a cease-fire. He further argues that international peacekeeping mechanisms were not properly brought to bear on the dispute. It was not part of Rowles’s purpose to examine in detail the correctness of El Salvador’s claims of mistreatment of Salvadoran citizens in Honduras.
In introductory and concluding sections of the book, Rowles touches on other important matters: population pressure on the land in both countries, internal politics, effects of the Central American Common Market on the economies of Honduras and El Salvador, past animosities and border problems, and the policy of the United States toward the conflict and its resolution. Rowles’s succinct treatment of these topics, indispensable to an understanding of the legal issues, is an admirable guide to the political and economic forces underlying the conflict.