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Useful Enemies: When Waging Wars Is More Important Than Winning Themby David Keen
Synopses & Reviews
There are currently between twenty and thirty civil wars worldwide, while at a global level the Cold War has been succeeded by a "war on drugs" and a "war on terror" that continues to rage a decade after 9/11. Why is this, when we know how destructive war is in both human and economic terms? Why do the efforts of aid organizations and international diplomats founder so often?
In this important book David Keen investigates why conflicts are so prevalent and so intractable, even when one side has much greater military resources. Could it be that endemic disorder and a "state of emergency" are more useful than bringing conflict to a close? Keen asks who benefits from wars--whether economically, politically, or psychologically—and argues that in order to bring them successfully to an end we need to understand the complex vested interests on all sides.
"Conflicts in Africa and Asia have often lasted far longer than either of the world wars. Keen (Endless War?), a professor of complex emergencies at the London School of Economics's department of international development, examines why powerful state and insurgency actors often are 'more interested in reaping the economic and political benefits of a conflict (including international aid) than in bringing it to a close.' For example, in Sierra Leone, government forces and rebels alike largely financed the war, and some became rich, by trading in diamonds. Protracted fighting results in 'weakening a political opposition, gaining electoral advantage; absorbing the energies of discontented groups; and sabotaging an emerging democracy.' Even after counterinsurgency efforts end, Keen shows, authoritarian governments, such as Guatemala's in the late 1990s, perpetuate a 'culture of war' by violent repression of 'trade unionists, radicals, and human rights activists.' Utilizing considerable research, Keen offers numerous case studies, though these sometimes are too brief and come in rapid-fire succession, as in recaps of conflicts in Sudan, Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, Sri Lanka, and Sierra Leone. He also argues, problematically, that the U.S. uses a strategy of pre-emptive wars, without discussing America's current military reticence vis-Ã -vis North Korea, Syria, and Iran. Still, this book provides an important perspective on the most troubling dimensions of recent local and regional wars. Agent: Antony Harwood, Antony Harwood, Ltd. (U.K.). (July)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
David Keen, professor of complex emergencies at the London School of Economics, is the author of Endless War?, The Benefits of Famine, and Complex Emergencies. He lives in Oxford, UK.
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History and Social Science » Economics » General