Feargal Cochrane’s recent contribution to security studies entitled: Ending Wars, provides a dynamic and logical account of international peace and conflict in the post-Cold War period. Given the gravity of the theme, and as the author highlights in the preface, it was a conceptually difficult book to write. This sentiment is understandable because the question of how to end wars is not something that can be systematised or devised as an international and universal approach, but rather entails gruelling case-by-case considerations. It is noteworthy that the author was drawn to the problematic of ending wars because of his own experience of being born and raised in Northern Ireland, a festering ethnic, religious and political hotspot. As Cochrane candidly admits, his birthplace does not provide him with additional professional insights, but rather enables his interesting attitude. Cochrane describes his work as “a book about what war is, how war ends, and how this has been evolving in recent times” (p. 1).
From Cochrane’s perspective, wars are not inevitable and they are not a fixed part of states’ policies. Instead, wars are viewed as a human activity that commence because of the will of people – the same way wars end, by the will of people. Cochrane refuses to be labelled as an idealist or optimist, and defends his position as a ‘realistic’ one, standing firmly behind the sentiment that all conflicts are solvable.
At the beginning of the book, Cochrane attempts to capture the evolving nature of war since the end of the Cold War and introduces an persuasive statistical account which compares wars’ in different periods of modern times, though spends considerable time contrasting the Cold War with the immediate post-Cold War period, and argues that even though international relations has seen a decline in inter-state wars since 1989, an extremely high number of intra-state conflicts – civil wars – are visible. Cochrane undertakes to locate theories to help understand different trends in modern warfare such as: the Democratic Peace Theory, the Golden Arches Theory (no two countries with Mc Donalds has ever gone to war against each other) or ‘Just War Theory.’ Cochrane does not hesitate to critically evaluate such theories and ultimately concludes that not all of them are adequate.
In the second chapter readers are presented with an evaluation of third-party interventions and whether they contribute to positive outcomes. Such interventions can be represented both at the national level – by multinational agencies such as the UN, NATO or the EU (macro-interventions) – and by individual states and/or internal civil society organizations. For further understanding of third-party interventions, two detailed case studies of Northern Ireland and South Africa are presented. Concerning macro-interventions, Cochrane provides a wide assortment of empirical information as well as critical evaluations of different UN missions such as: Rwanda, Somalia and Bosnia – their consequences and the development of international conscious these failures have begun to spark.
The succeeding chapter entitled: ‘Resistance to the Peace’ turns attention to ‘spoiler groups’ which are actors that have political or economic interests in wars, and therefore attempt to keep conflicts going as enablers so as not lose their potential benefits. Cochrane goes deeper into this problematic and tries to analyze the way spoiler groups boycott eventual peace negotiations. Cochrane points out that it is very important not to categorise all spoiler groups, but rather distinguish between ‘violent’ and ‘peaceful’ resisters, a task which he achieves extremely well.
The following chapter, ‘Global War on Terror (GWOT),’ pays addresses the advent of a ‘new’ type of warfare following the 9/11 attacks against the US. War, it is argued, shifted to another ‘dimension’ and consequently, traditional means of combat will have to be revised if the GWOT is ever to be successfully brought to its conclusion. The most interesting parts of this chapter revolve around the themes: ‘Ending the War in Iraq’ and ‘Ending the War on Terror,’ of which the latter is wrapped up with a set of principles in need of adherence if relations between the West and the Muslim Middle East are to enter and age of reconciliation. Cochrane duly notes that many of the Western-Middle Eastern antagonisms stem, in part, from a poorly formulated US foreign policy in the Middle East. The solution, simply, is for the US to take the initiative – with all the confidence that should accompany a state as internationally influential as the US currently is – and realise that the GWOT cannot be won by military means alone; a more balanced and comprehensive policy can solve the seemingly intractable conflict for the hearts and minds of the vast Islamic territories. Only with a sea-change in US foreign policy can an ‘ending war’ scenario can be drawn.
The concluding chapter examines reconciliation and reconstruction efforts in war-ravaged societies. Cochrane delves into the complexities that face shattered societies following war, and provides a compelling socio-political analysis of the post-war traumas, inevitable as they are, that undermine civil society. Using the cases of Bosnia, Rwanda, Iraq, Northern Ireland and South Africa, Cochrane presents the argument that sometimes the engagement of the Western states and transnational organizations in the reconstruction of such states can raise suspicion of motives being driven by political self-interests, which poses further problems and may do more damage than good.
Cochrane admits that the book is unashamedly critical towards US and UK foreign policies. However, at the same time Cochrane stresses that these powerful, Western states, together with international organizations such as: the UN, NATO or the World Bank, will remain key players in international conflict resolutions. Therefore, changes in the structural conditions of a conflict, as well as the transformations of human agency are required to turn such involvements into successes. This book could be utilised as a blue-print, a first reference for devising more humane and thoughtful interventions that up-hold moral principles.