Chester A. Crocker, Fen Osler Hampson, Pamela R. Aall, eds. Leashing the Dogs of War: Conflict Management in a Divided World. C.: United States Institute of Peace Press, 2007. xviii + 726 pp. $85.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-1-929223-97-8; $45.00 (paper), ISBN 978-1-929223-96-1.
Reviewed by Ralph Hitchens (Independent Scholar)
Published on H-War (January, 2008)
This massive collection of thirty-seven essays offers wide-ranging analysis of the "end of history" era in which we find ourselves, although if the authors are united on one idea, it is that Francis Fukuyama got it wrong (End of History and the Last Man ). Be that as it may, we are surely at the end of a major historical epoch in which conflict between nation-states was the default frame of reference for politicians and historians. Mohammed Ayoob's essay "State Making, State Breaking, and State Failure" echoes what I first heard from a senior CIA analyst more than one decade ago, that the "Westphalian model" was passing from the scene. Ayoob maintains that we cannot accept the transcendence of this hallowed geopolitical construct, but rather must work to strengthen it. In analytical terms, this involves reaching back to identify common ground between European states in their formative era and today's failing states in the third world, a difficult prospect for historians and near-impossible for policymakers. Still, Ayoob does make the case that the root problem is widespread inadequacy of state authority in the developing world, not (as it so often seems) the excessive use of state power against one's own citizens.
For a narrative and statistical overview of conflict in the present, the reader should jump to chapter 29, Andrew Mack's "Successes and Challenges in Conflict Management." Mack shows that despite the ubiquitous chaos and violence that besets mankind at the start of the twenty-first century, things actually seem to be getting better in many respects. An essay with particular appeal for historians is "Turbulent Transitions" by Edward D. Mansfield and Jack Snyder. The authors might be criticized for using too many examples from nineteenth- and early twentieth-century European history applied to less-mature polities in the twenty-first-century third world, but they draw their examples with insightful economy. Their argument is at once coherent and somewhat frustrating for American policymakers. Mansfield and Snyder contend that "states are especially war prone when they start making a transition toward democracy before the requisite institutions are in place" (p. 172). South Africa, they note, has done reasonably well evolving into a mass democracy; other African states, like Burundi, have not done so well. The authors convincingly refute the neo-Wilsonian thrust of the Bush administration, where all the rhetoric is about democracy and elections with less said about an independent judiciary or a free press. They are not the first to note that within most Islamic states in particular, "the institutional preparations for democracy are weak" (p. 173).
Economist Paul Collier has some interesting thoughts on the economic imperatives of revolutionary groups, seeing such entities "not as the ultimate protest groups but as the ultimate manifestation of organized crime" (p. 198). Of course rebel groups, unlike ordinary criminal organizations, must "develop a discourse of grievance," but what ultimately matters is whether the group can sustain itself financially (p. 199). He concludes that "rebellion is unrelated to objective circumstances or grievance while being caused by the feasibility of predation" (p. 199). Logically, then, states should respond to an insurgency by reducing opportunities for predation rather than addressing grievances. Post-conflict settlement is also a stark economic issue. In Mozambique, for example, Renamo was able to become a nonviolent political party in large part because foreign aid donors were able to offset its income from extortion and theft; and in Angola, UNITA (National Union for the Total Independence of Angola) acquired so much wealth from diamonds that foreign aid donors had no impact and the conflict could not be easily terminated. In contrast to Collier, Frances Stewart and Graham Brown look in more traditional fashion at broader socioeconomic issues, calling for efforts to correct "horizontal inequalities" in both economic and political spheres as the best formula to resolve or prevent conflict in weak states (p. 222). Might these two approaches not work in parallel?
Lawrence Freedman examines the relevance of humanitarian intervention into the war on terror. The failure of the current administration to appreciate this linkage has, he argues, complicated U.S. efforts in both Afghanistan and Iraq. "Peace support," he notes, is historically problematic for the U.S. military and our experience in the 1990s was not encouraging (p. 248). In particular, growing casualty-intolerance and our obsession with an "exit strategy" in every intervention cannot help but prolong insurgencies. Alas, the long U.S. learning process in dealing with instability and insurgencies in the current era has been cut short by the war on terror. Among the many lessons we have yet to internalize is the "battle of the narrative" preeminent in this age of ubiquitous media presence and, God help us, the Internet (p. 259). The good news Freedman offers echoes what Mack and other contributors point out--declining conflict statistics worldwide. Only international terrorism, it seems, is on the rise.
Brian Urquhart, a longtime senior U.N. official and surely one of the most experienced "blue helmet" soldiers around, has some counterintuitive advice on the use of force in humanitarian interventions. He shows that when it comes to stabilizing a chaotic situation, rapid deployment is more important than staff preparation or troop training. Bruce Jentleson tackles the question of "never again"--the legacy of humanitarian disasters like Rwanda, where intervention was either aborted or came too late. Military force, he argues, must be "something more than a last resort" (p. 292). Robert J. Art and Patrick Cronin examine the difficult issue of coercive diplomacy, reaching the unsurprising conclusion that in face-off situations the stakes are high for the target as well as the coercer, and it is not easy to find the correct balance between threat and inducement. (Munich, it seems, may still be relevant.) It is a relief to get down to brass tacks with Michael O'Hanlon, who recommends that the international community build a peacekeeping and stabilization force on the order of six hundred thousand troops, enabling sequential and even simultaneous intervention deployments of up to two hundred thousand troops to be fielded.
There is much else of interest here: Joseph Nye reminding us (as we urgently need to be reminded) about "soft power" (pp. 390-391); Marina Ottaway on the unsurprising failure of "coercive democratization" (p. 603); and Kimberly Martin on the intriguing similarities between today's humanitarian interventions and late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century imperialism--not the brutal variant practiced by King Leopold or the kaiser, but American and British liberal democratic imperialism based on the Kiplingesque "white man's burden" (p. 625). (Today's implementation, it seems, lacks the resources or political will to succeed.) Space precludes a full inventory of this collection, but certainly the book contains a wealth of thoughtful analysis for the contemporary historian and policy wonk alike. I wonder, though, why the United States Institute of Peace opted for a huge, expensive volume that will scarcely be seen outside the halls of academia. Why not instead beef up their website with even more high-profile content? Why not become a favored bookmark of the policy elite (assuming members of said elite use their computers for anything apart from e-mail)? If we are taking a fresh look at the "Westphalian model," why not reexamine other legacy structures? Is a book reviewer raising this question "shooting the messenger" after a fashion?
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Ralph Hitchens. Review of Crocker, Chester A.; Hampson, Fen Osler; Aall, Pamela R., eds., Leashing the Dogs of War: Conflict Management in a Divided World.
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