- Purchase/rental options available:
Journal of Democracy 14.3 (2003) 174-177
[Access article in PDF]
After the Shooting Stops
Ending Civil Wars: The Implementation of Peace Agreements. By Stephen John Stedman, Donald Rothchild, and Elizabeth M. Cousens, eds. Lynne Rienner, 2003. 729 pp.
The academic study of civil war has arguably produced too many edited books, too many of which in turn have focused on the same cases and issues. Ending Civil Wars: The Implementation of Peace Agreements [End Page 174] is a rare exception. It is innovative in its choice of topic, methodology, and iconoclastic policy conclusions, and it is likely to have a substantial impact on the field.
The book centers on the role of international actors in implementing civil-war peace agreements, specifically during the relatively short time span in which the immediate terms of these accords are alternatively carried out or violated. Much of the literature on the subject of civil wars has been concerned with either ending violence through some sort of settlement or longer-term issues of peace building. But of course, civil-war settlements do not implement themselves; indeed, most fail fairly quickly. So this book opens an important discussion on what has been a too-neglected dimension of the problem.
Conventionally, the literature tends to be divided into quantitative (large-N) studies and case (small-N) studies: Large-N studies can establish the existence of general patterns by demonstrating correlations across many cases, but they are much less useful in tracing particular causal patterns and relationships; small-N studies can illuminate such causal relationships in a few cases, but it is always hard to know whether their findings can be applied elsewhere. Happily, Ending Civil Wars adopts what might be called a "medium-N strategy." The editors took the sixteen settlements of civil wars negotiated between 1980 and 1997 in which "international actors were given prominent roles in implementation," and case authors were asked to respond to a single set of questions—the goal of the method being to combine the generalizations of large-N studies with some of the in-depth causal analyses of small-N ones. The method is not without its drawbacks: Due to space limitations, only nine of the sixteen cases are included in the book, and the set of questions given to the authors was not included as an appendix. Accordingly, the method and overarching logic of the study are less transparent than they could have been. But the net result is nonetheless an unusually powerful, coherent, and persuasive set of analyses.
Unlike many such studies, this book's is focused on policy issues—appropriately so, for a product of the International Peace Academy and the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford. Stephen Stedman's conclusions are likely to be highly controversial. He and George Downs begin by arguing that agreements can be classified before implementation according to their "degree of difficulty," itself understood in terms of a range of factors: the number of warring parties involved, for example; the level of non-coerced agreement among them; the likelihood of spoilers; the presence of neighboring states opposing the agreement; as well as the number of soldiers and the amount of lootable natural resources. In their conclusion, they imply that the going categories of civil-war terminations—mainly, military victories and negotiated settlements—should be supplemented by negotiated settlements that have been coerced by international pressure (whether as category of its own or as a type of military victory). [End Page 175]
Whereas difficult cases require substantial international resources, which only a regional or world power can provide, the question becomes crucial in these cases as to whether such a power has a serious national interest in settlement. The book's analysis of its sixteen case-studies shows that in easy cases implementation can be accomplished successfully (as in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, or Namibia). In difficult cases where no major power is interested (as in Rwanda, Somalia, or Angola), international intervention chronically fails. And in difficult cases where a major power is interested, at least partial success results (as in Cambodia, Lebanon, or Bosnia...