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

By Kuehn, John T. | Joint Force Quarterly, April 2010 | Go to article overview
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The Making of Peace: Rulers, States, and the Aftermath of War

Kuehn, John T., Joint Force Quarterly

Edited by Williamson Murray and Jim Lacey

New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009

368 pp. $90

ISBN: 978-0-5215-1719-5

Shortly after the United States launched Operation Enduring Freedom to change the Taliban regime in Kabul in response to 9/11, Sir Michael Howard wrote a rather dark and pessimistic editorial on the outlook for the intervention in Afghanistan. History appears to have finally caught up with his assessment and the implications of how difficult making peace really is. With The Making of Peace, Williamson Murray and Jim Lacey have made an extremely welcome contribution to the plethora of good scholarship being published that attempts to better understand the continuum between war and peace.

Murray and Lacey turned to Sir Michael and his ubiquitous scholarship to put this collection of essays (including several by the editors) into context with a preface. In 2006, Murray and Howard had teamed in much the same way to look at the importance of history to military professionals in The Past as Prologue. A year later, Howard did a similar favor for the editors of Clausewitz in the Twenty-first Century. The point has almost been reached where if an anthology has a preface or foreword by Howard, the book is definitely worth purchasing.


As with all good books, the title implies the major thesis: that the making of peace is a process dependent on ruling elites, the nature of the state, and the political and cultural context of the immediate postwar period. One theme common to all the essays is how difficult and undervalued the process of forging a lasting and stable peace is. Another is that much of what Carl von Clausewitz had to say about the dynamics that influence war can be applied to the processes of establishing and maintaining peace. Howard's preface makes clear that all such attempts to forge something that lasts face considerable philosophical challenges. Citing Western philosophers Saint Augustine, Thomas Hobbes, and Immanuel Kant, Howard implies that the task is perhaps impossible. But he also gives us the sense--as do these essays--that to undervalue (or, in today's usage, underresource) the effort intellectually and politically is to guarantee that bugaboo of modern times: the flawed peace that leads to even more destructive and sustained conflict. Therefore, like war, one must closely study peace and its maintenance in order to better ameliorate the effects of war, which the philosophers seem to have concluded is endemic to the human condition (and rightly so, in this reviewer's opinion).

Murray's introductory essay revisits Howard's themes and informs them with relevance for today. He is particularly critical of the West's ahistoricism and how it leads to the adoption of convenient myths about why wars start and end, myths that in turn contribute greatly to the problem of making peace (p. 23). Next come 12 essays in generally chronological order whose common theme is the difficulty of making a lasting peace. The authors are much the same group deployed to such good effect in The Past as Prologue. The phrase may seem cliched, but they are all acknowledged experts in their chosen fields of study: from Paul Rahe on the ancients to Frederick Kagan and Colin Gray on recent times. Of particular interest, and comprising a recurring major theme, is the tenuous larger lesson that Richard Hart Sinnreich teases from his discussion of the justly famous Congress of Vienna in 1815.

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