One can think of only a few works timelier than Sandole’s: Peacebuilding. The international society bears witness to an upheaval of international and national structures; structures that have been taken for granted. Informal violence is ubiquitous and state structures, which – be they strictly Hobbesian – we suppose should have saved individuals from the ravages of conflicts and “new” wars, are either dysfunctional or simply non-existent.
Peacebuilding itself is not a completely recent issue. The international community has been trying hard to tackle emergent trends of chaos and mayhem for years. However, as Sandole succinctly puts it, we have failed thus far and, barring a revolutionary change in the way we perceive and handle these issues, we will continue to fail.
Persuasively, Sandole underlines the limited troubleshooting capacity of the reactive and narrow peacebuilding practices, which merely aim or only manage to establish the so-called “negative” peace (i.e. “absence of hostilities”) and calls for a more comprehensive approach (“maximalist peacebuilding”). This he does diligently, yet in a manner that would allow even laymen to penetrate these very complicated issues surrounding the peacebuilding phenomenon.
Sandole tackles the problem of peacebuilding in the first chapter. As noted, the efforts to establish peace have hitherto been, and will likely continue to be doomed to fail, as long as a more holistic and proactive approach is not adhered to. He stresses the fact that a national-interest oriented (dubbed by Sandole as “old” realism) policy is incapable of determining and addressing the causes of conflicts, which are now of a global character. Global is now national and national is global.
In chapter three, the author presents the reader a solid example of an “ideal praxis” on the field, namely UNPREDEP; the experience of which was proactive in nature and tried to address the roots and underlying causes of the conflict. It sought to establish good relationships with locals, which increased the success of the mission. In this, Sandole has brought to the fore very convincing evidence that what he recommends is do-able and has been already achieved on the field. UNPREDEP embodied important aspects of what Sandole endeavours to establish in his book; a proactive, flexible peace-building, aimed at addressing the root causes of conflicts in close cooperation with local populations.
In the fourth chapter, Sandole highlights the need to address global problems with a view to preventing terrorism. Accordingly, ‘it is essential to deal effectively with the deep-rooted origins of political violence, of which terrorism is a manifestation or a symbol,’ i.e. terrorism is an ‘epiphenomenon of deep-rooted conflict.’ Given the nature of terrorism, Sandole adds, that traditional counter-terrorism measures will only be counter-productive and result in creating more disillusioned and radicalised individuals, i.e. new recruits for terrorist groups. He advises direct and indirect negotiations with terrorists. This is, as argued by Sandole, nothing but a logical step if global governance is to be strengthened to address the inter-connected global problems, which cause the radicalisation of individuals and groups.
Sandole has been researching and publishing on this issue for a long time and one cannot help feel the immense theoretical and practical experience the author brings to the table. His masterful references to the cases on the field and extensive use of the relevant academic sources are, mildly put, remarkable. The reader feels that this book represents only the tip of the iceberg of what Sandole can actually offer. Even in this sense, the way he distils many years’ of experience and comes up with a not-overly-inflated book is praiseworthy. This makes the piece even more valuable. Vast references and creative usage of other academic works, as well as the eloquent elaboration of the most recent peace-building-relevant events make this book suitable for classroom instruction on the Bachelors as well as Graduate levels of study.
This book is a must read for students of the IR and conflict resolution as well as practitioners in the field. Still, for those merely wishing to cast a glimpse of international problems, this book has much to offer, it is clear in language though complex in argumentation.