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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

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Nationalism and Ethnic Conflict (Revised Edition)
Michael E. Brown, Owen R Cote Jr, Sean M Lynn-Jones and Steven E Miller (eds)

MIT Press (Cambridge, London)
491pp., PB 19.50, ISBN 0-262-52315-9



During the last decade and so policy makers have been challenged to change the ways they look at conflict and ways it should be resolved. Conflicts that have emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union introduced the international community to internal conflicts, usually described as ethnic, which bring more insecurity to the region and possibly to the rest of the world. Many scholars have analyzed the causes of conflict, and ways to manage and resolve it. Nationalism and Ethnic Conflict, edited by Michael E. Brown, Owen R Cote, Jr., Sean M Lynn-Jones and Steven E. Miller, is a solid and thorough collection of essays that contribute to the existing body of work on international security and peace and conflict studies. Analyses written by respected scholars and analysts contribute greatly to an understanding of why internal ethnic and nationalistic conflict matter to distant powers, what triggered them in the first place, and how international powers manage and resolve them.

Michael Brown, in his The Causes of Internal Conflict essay, introduces the reader to the underlying causes of conflict. He looks at both external and internal causes of state collapse which often leads towards violent conflict. Theories have been developed on the basis that certain conflicts are caused by ancient hatreds. Others argue that ethnic mixture and fear of uncertainty after the collapse of a central power are also primary triggers of internal ethnic conflicts. However, Brown argues that even though ancient hatreds are important, there is a need for analyzing underlying causes of conflict by ?identifying different conflicts and the different sets of casual factors that are decisive in different settings.? (Pg. 25) Other scholars in this edition have also tried to argue that what the international community has defined as ethnic warfare, in certain cases, is more non-ethnic than ever. John Mueller in his essay The Banality of ?Ethnic War? uses examples of former Yugoslavia and Rwanda in order to prove that such conflicts were primarily led by country ?low-lifes?, and not by one ethnic group against another ethnic group. His argument stands on a firm ground; however, his warning that soccer team followers in Britain might be future killers is a generalization, given that not all soccer followers are low-lifes and thugs willing to kill and rape for a political cause. Arguing that the followers of sports teams, neighborhood gangs, or paramilitary units were main perpetrators during the conflict in Yugoslavia is not far from the truth; however, this generalized approach creates a feeling that there is a conspiracy of the less educated or those passionate and active in cheering for their sports team.

Mueller does note that international policing might be a successful way of maintaining order and preventing local gangs from holding arms. Hence, the question is: what do we do with so called thugs, gangs, and sports team followers whose primary occupation is to create chaos or break the law? How do we address these issues before they become a menace to society or future rapists and killers? Other contributors argue that ethnicity and nationalism are not the main causes or the leading ideologies of conflict. Another problem to be resolved is the international community?s inability to commit itself to long-term interventions which are more likely to create sustainable peace. Lake and Rothschild note that there is a great need for the effective implementation of a peace agreement if international community wants to see long-lasting peace in the country of conflict or region.

Contributions to this edition are certainly providing the reader with facts and experiences in thoroughly analyzed ethnic conflicts. Preventive methods, more committed and clear conflict management techniques, and long-term conflict resolution processes sound simple but are difficult to implement, and always need to be updated and corrected. There is no silver bullet solution because each conflict, ethnic or not, carries its own unique history, reasons, and other details. However, careful analysis in this edition certainly contributes to the studies of causes and gives valuable propositions to how international community should address benign disagreements or a dissatisfied group?s needs, regardless of their ethnicity, nationality, or sports team affiliation.


Olja H. Van Wely



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