How Enemies Become Friends: The Sources of Stable Peace

How Enemies Become Friends: The Sources of Stable Peace

How Enemies Become Friends: The Sources of Stable Peace

How Enemies Become Friends: The Sources of Stable Peace


Is the world destined to suffer endless cycles of conflict and war? Can rival nations become partners and establish a lasting and stable peace? How Enemies Become Friends provides a bold and innovative account of how nations escape geopolitical competition and replace hostility with friendship. Through compelling analysis and rich historical examples that span the globe and range from the thirteenth century through the present, foreign policy expert Charles Kupchan explores how adversaries can transform enmity into amity--and he exposes prevalent myths about the causes of peace.

Kupchan contends that diplomatic engagement with rivals, far from being appeasement, is critical to rapprochement between adversaries. Diplomacy, not economic interdependence, is the currency of peace; concessions and strategic accommodation promote the mutual trust needed to build an international society. The nature of regimes matters much less than commonly thought: countries, including the United States, should deal with other states based on their foreign policy behavior rather than on whether they are democracies. Kupchan demonstrates that similar social orders and similar ethnicities, races, or religions help nations achieve stable peace. He considers many historical successes and failures, including the onset of friendship between the United States and Great Britain in the early twentieth century, the Concert of Europe, which preserved peace after 1815 but collapsed following revolutions in 1848, and the remarkably close partnership of the Soviet Union and China in the 1950s, which descended into open rivalry by the 1960s.

In a world where conflict among nations seems inescapable, How Enemies Become Friends offers critical insights for building lasting peace.


Long before European immigrants came to North America, Iroquois tribes settled the lands that would eventually become upstate New York. These tribes were regularly at war with each other, exacting a heavy toll on their populations. In the middle of the fifteenth century, five Iroquois tribes, aggrieved by the mounting losses, gathered around a communal fire in the village of Onondaga in an attempt to end the fighting. The confederation they forged not only stopped the warfare, but it preserved peace among the Iroquois for over three hundred years. Several centuries later, the Congress of Vienna served as a similar turning point for Europe. The gathering of European statesmen in 1814–1815 not only marked the end of the destruction wrought by the Napoleonic Wars, but also produced the Concert of Europe, a pact that maintained peace among the great powers for more than three decades. Iroquois delegates resolved disputes in regular meetings of the Grand Council in Onondaga, while European diplomats preferred more informal congresses called as needed to diffuse potential crises. But the results were the same—stable peace.

Although the Iroquois Confederation and the Concert of Europe are now historical artifacts, both amply demonstrate the potential for diplomacy to tame the geopolitical rivalry that often seems an inescapable feature of international politics. President Barack Obama appreciates this potential; he entered office determined not only to repair America's frayed relations with traditional allies, but also to use America's clout to address some of the world's most intractable conflicts. In his inaugural address, President Obama asserted that Americans, having experienced civil war and the national renewal that followed, “cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.”

Obama wasted no time in acting on his words. Two days after assuming

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