International Judicial Monitor
Published by the American Society of International Law and the International Judicial Academy
December 2006, Volume 1, Issue 5

In Review:
New Publications on International and Comparative Law

At War's End

At War’s End: Building Peace After Civil Conflict
by Roland Paris.
Cambridge University Press. 2005

The elections of 2006 showed widespread dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq and the Bush administration’s handling of it. Prospects for ending it any time soon, especially on the basis of a “victory” for the United States, seem dim. Since the Iraq conflict has dissolved into what many commentators and observers recognize as a civil war among religious and ethnic partisans, questions can legitimately be raised as to how the U.S. can achieve anything like a “victory,” with an occupation force, victory meaning the establishment of a stable political democracy with a liberal free-market economy (the stated aims of the Bush administration). What are the prospects?

Anyone who reads Professor Roland Paris’ book can arrive at only one answer to this question: very little, in the short run, and not even much in the long run. Professor Paris’ book deals primarily with intra-state conflict or civil war, as opposed to inter-state war. However, since the Iraqi conflict has become at least a de facto civil war, his observations and conclusions are very much relevant to it. The reason is his observation that, based on his studies, the more prolonged and bitter the conflict within a country, the less chance there is to achieve the kind of success the U.S. is looking for.

Paris’ Introduction provides a source of lament for those who have had hopes at the end of the 20th Century and the beginning of the 21st Century that the world might be poised to achieve generations of peace, both intrastate and interstate. The author points out that between 1989 and the end of the year 2000, there were 111 armed conflicts in the world, of which 104 (94%) were intrastate conflicts or civil wars. Even more tragic is the effect that these conflicts have had on civilian populations: 90% of all those killed in them were civilians, a statistic that seems to be repeating itself in the Iraqi strife.

The central objective of the book is to test the proposition or thesis put forward by Woodrow Wilson following World War I, that the surest path to world peace is the establishment in all countries of liberal, market-oriented democracies. He points out that there was a move to use this proposition as an objective for established western democracies seeking to assist emerging third world countries at the end of the Cold War, many of whom were shaking off the vestiges of Communist regimes. Professor Paris tests this Wilsonian proposition by examining “peace building” in 11 countries that were consumed in the 1990s to one degree or another with civil war, some with outside assistance for one side.

The author has divided his book into three parts: Part I deals with the origins of peacebuilding, beginning with Woodrow Wilson’s “liberal peace thesis” and continuing through actual peacebuilding efforts in the post Cold War period.

Part II includes case studies focusing on the aforementioned 11 nations among the 14 that have actually undergone peacebuilding efforts in the period 1989-1999. Professor Paris offers detailed analyses of these efforts. The eleven case studies involve Angola, Rwanda, Cambodia, Liberia, Bosnia, Croatia, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Namibia and Mozambique. His conclusion from a detailed examination of the peace building efforts in each of these countries, is that in only a few were the efforts even moderately successful, and in some instances the peacebuilding activities made conditions worse. He states:

[I]nternational efforts to transform war-shattered states have, in a number of cases, inadvertently exacerbated societal tensions or reproduced conditions that historically fueled violence in those countries. The very strategies that peacebuilders have employed to consolidate peace – political and economic liberalization – seem paradoxically, to have increased the likelihood of renewed violence in several of those states.

The reason for this is that in all instances, in the immediate post conflict period, attempts to install democratic governments through free elections and market economies happened too rapidly, before there were created the institutions, political and otherwise, that are necessary before the ultimate objectives can be achieved.

The fault, according to the author, is not with the objectives but with the methods used to get there. He states that “their [the peacebuilders] desire to turn war-torn states into stable market democracies was not the problem; rather, the methods they used to effect this change, including their failure to anticipate and forestall the destabilizing effects of liberalization, proved to be the Achilles heal of peacebuilding.” As an example he observes that “promoting democratization and marketization has the potential to stimulate higher levels of societal competition at the very moment (immediately following conflict) when states are least equipped to contain such tensions within peaceful bounds.”

Part III offers a discussion of “problems and solutions.” In discussing the “Paradoxical Logic of Market Democracy – Peace Through Conflict” the author identifies five “pathologies of liberalization”: “bad civil society, ethnic entrepreneurs, elections as focal points for harmful competition, saboteurs and failed transitions, and the dangers of economic liberalization.” He also offers a list of three common problems of war torn states: “intense societal conflicts, weak conflict dampeners, and ineffective political institutions.” And there is a final list, key elements in a new peacebuilding strategy: “wait until conditions are ripe before elections, design electoral systems that reward moderation, promote good civil society, control hate speech, adopt conflict-reducing economic policies, and rebuild effective state institutions.” His prescription for reform is labeled “Institutionalization Before Liberalization” (IBL).

The answer, Professor Paris states, is not to abandon the goals of liberal democracies with market oriented economies, but to focus in the immediate post conflict period on using the IBL prescription. Simply put, Professor Paris suggests that peacebuilders must first seek to establish those institutions that can preserve the peace, deliver necessary public services and provide for the settlement of interpersonal conflicts among the populace. “What is needed in the immediate post conflict period” he writes “is not quick elections, democratic ferment, or economic 'shock therapy' but a more controlled and gradual approach to liberalization, combined with the immediate building of government institutions that can manage these political and economic reforms.”

Professor Paris, in the last part of his book, confronts the international community with three basic options:

1. Ignore the problems and challenges of peacebuilding and allow states emerging from civil war to resolve their own problems.
2. Maintain the status quo, i.e. support the methods that have already been used in peacebuilding operations and that have been proven to be inadequate or failures.
3. Rethink basic assumptions, strategies and tools in peacebulding and start on a new path.

Professor Paris obviously favors the last option, with a view to adopting the IBL formula. He also offers a concrete proposal to implement this new approach: the creation of a new international agency, either within or outside the current UN structure, to direct post-conflict peacebuilding initiatives under the guidance of a new international political council.

Why should anyone care about Professor Paris’ observations and conclusions about post conflict peacebuilding, other than being unhappy that recent efforts have not produced the intended results? Why not abandon all peacebuilding efforts in countries that are undergoing, or have undergone, civil war, as suggested by option 1 above. The answer is because there are tragic consequences to the world at large if peacebuilding efforts are not undertaken, consequences that go beyond any individual country and impact on the whole idea of the rule of law in the world. He quotes from a World Bank study to the effect that:

[I]ntrastate wars tend to destabilize neighboring countries, produce the world’s largest refugee flows, spread infectious diseases like malaria and HIV, facilitate the trafficking of illegal narcotics, and attract international criminal syndicates and terrorist groups.

The author is not optimistic about nations, including the United States, learning from the insights of his research and analysis:

[T]he peacebuilding experience in Sierra Leone and Afghanistan, where efforts to rebuild domestic institutions have been relatively insubstantial, suggest that the lessons highlighted in this book remain largely unlearned, with potentially grave consequences for both of those countries.

He might also have mentioned Iraq – the now civil war-ridden country where the presence of U.S. troops seemingly has only exacerbated the levels of violence. And the fact that the Iraq war has now lasted longer than World War II makes the prospects of a stable democracy with a free market economy there seem implausible and unattainable. Nevertheless it is worth urging U.S. foreign policy makers and others engaged or interested in international peacebuilding to read Roland Paris’ well written and well documented study, in the hopes that its insights and lessons will be learned by someone, sometime, that will pay dividends as the world moves further into the 21st Century.

James G. Apple, Co-Editor, International Judicial Monitor and President, International Judicial Academy

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Editors: James G. Apple, Andrew Solomon and Maria Staunton.
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