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The Making of Peace: Rulers, States, and the Aftermath of War (review)

From: The Journal of Military History
Volume 73, Number 4, October 2009
pp. 1298-1299 | 10.1353/jmh.0.0418

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This is the latest volume of essays Williamson Murray has co-edited with an eye to helping military officers, historians, and anyone else interested in defense matters develop a historical perspective that will facilitate their efforts to wrestle with contemporary problems. Previous volumes looked at such topics as military innovation between the First and Second World Wars and the use of history by the military profession. Here, Murray offers eleven case studies of the challenges statesmen have faced making peace once the verdict of Mars had been rendered.

Once again, Murray has assembled a stellar cast of contributors. Sir Michael Howard’s preface and Murray’s introduction effectively summarize the essays that follow while offering provocative analysis of the enduring challenges statesmen face in making peace. Paul A. Rahe then offers an essay examining the conflict between Athens and Sparta that produced the 421 B.C. Peace of Nicias, after which the book jumps forward to the Peace of Westphalia with Derek Croxton and Geoffrey Parker describing how its elevation of secular over religious concerns and its service as the beginning of Congress deliberations revolutionized European diplomacy. Fred Anderson then looks at the Peace of Paris that ended the Seven Years’ War, how it reflected the assumptions of diplomats of that era, and the unintended consequences of their actions.

The Congress of Vienna is the subject of Richard Sinnreich’s essay, which attributes its accomplishments to statesmen “unfettered by public opinion” (p. 134) and a Europe where the horrors of war were indelibly fresh. Evidence of the forces that would unravel the work of the unfettered statesmen of Vienna in the struggles to bring satisfactory conclusions to the American Civil War and Franco-Prussian War are presented by James McPherson and Marcus Jones respectively. Murray himself takes on the effort to put Europe back together in the aftermath of the First World War and the inability of the statesmen at Versailles to truly settle “the German problem”. John Gooch follows with a study of the efforts of British statesmen to deal with the Middle East during and after the Great War.

Three essays examine the Cold War that arose from the ashes of World War II. Colin Gray presents what he considers the inevitable conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States as validation of Thucydides’s identification of fear, interest, and honor (which Gray “updates” by substituting “culture” for “honor”) as enduring motives for conflict, while co-editor Jim Lacey looks at economic aspects of U.S. efforts to shape the peace after World War II. After Frederick Kagan’s essay chronicling the final decade of the Cold War and its aftermath, Sinnreich returns with some general thoughts about the larger themes that emerge from the volume as a whole.

All of the essays are clearly written, informative, intellectually stimulating, and full of important insights. Some might wish that a bit more attention had been paid to the men at the proverbial tip of the spear and how they responded to efforts by rulers and statesmen to get them to lay down their arms and accept peace—especially when doing so meant failure to achieve the objectives they had fought and bled for. In the final analysis, however, like Murray’s previous volumes, this one belongs on the reading list of anyone interested in peace, war, and the making of both.

Copyright © 2009 The Society for Military History
Project MUSE® - View Citation
Ethan S. Rafuse. "The Making of Peace: Rulers, States, and the Aftermath of War (review)." The Journal of Military History 73.4 (2009): 1298-1299. Project MUSE. Web. 25 Jan. 2013. <http://muse.jhu.edu/>.
Rafuse, E. S.(2009). The Making of Peace: Rulers, States, and the Aftermath of War (review). The Journal of Military History 73(4), 1298-1299. Society for Military History. Retrieved January 25, 2013, from Project MUSE database.
Ethan S. Rafuse. "The Making of Peace: Rulers, States, and the Aftermath of War (review)." The Journal of Military History 73, no. 4 (2009): 1298-1299. http://muse.jhu.edu/ (accessed January 25, 2013).
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