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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

1998, Vol. 1 No. 2 .

The Clash of Distant Cultures
Richard J Payne

(Albany: State University Press of New York, 1995)
285pp, index, bib, $24.50, 0-7914-2647-5hbk..

This is an interesting and challenging volume which argues that it is impossible to separate domestic culture from the way in which the United States conducts its foreign policy. The author's thesis, in effect, is that there is a close linkage between the US tendency to use force abroad and the culture of violence in America itself. Indeed, he feels overall that that there are important cultural barriers in the US to international negotiations and seeking negotiated settlements to outstanding differences with other powers. In support of his case, naturally enough, he cites the example of the Gulf War and America's subsequent relationship (or non-relationship) with Iraq. Nonetheless, the other examples he cites - of America's attempts to bring about a negotiated settlement in Israel and US military inaction over Bosnia - do seem to raise real problems for his more general thesis about there being a clear connection between the practices of violence on the home front and overseas. That said, his concluding argument about the need to resolve conflicts peacefully is one we can all agree with. Most of us would also accept that in spite of its many cultural problems, the United States under Clinton played an absolutely indispensable role in helping accelerate the much-abused peace process in Northern Ireland. Why he did it remains open to conjecture. The important thing however is that he did it - and those of us looking for a peaceful settlement of Ireland's problems have some cause to be grateful.

Professor Michael Cox, University of Wales, Aberystwyth

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