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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2005, Vol. 5 No. 1 .


Rethinking War and Peace
Diana Francis

London: Pluto Press, 2004,
192pp PB 11.99 ISBN 0-7453-2187-9


The message of this book is clear: war is an unnecessary evil and not a good or ethically valid solution in any situation. Indeed, Diana Francis argues that there are better ways to resolve conflict and create peace than through the use of military and violent means ? these non-violent alternatives simply have not been given a fair chance in the past. The author hence clearly dismisses the ?myths? that wars are sometimes necessary, that they are fought for just causes, lead to desirable results and that social/political alternatives are generally exhausted beforehand.

Francis claims that the present system of war and power domination has proven to be dysfunctional and counterproductive, that is, it has increased rather than decreased the levels of insecurity, violence, polarisations and inequalities worldwide. Therefore, time is now ripe to try something else ? to make a paradigm shift away from the system of war to a system of peace. It is Francis? conviction that the aim should be ?positive? rather than ?negative? peace and, in other words, it is not only necessary to stop wars but also to create a system in which the actual causes of war are removed.

What makes this book particularly interesting and convincing is the fact that Francis does not stop at simply offering arguments against warfare (chapters 1-4), such as it being the cause of mayhem and suffering as well as an outright violation of human rights, but also suggests practical measures on how to achieve the paradigm shift and hence avoid the resort to violence and war in the first place (chapters 5-7). Drawing on the large-scale protests that have taken place worldwide against the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq, along with other positive examples, Francis concludes that human agency is the key ? indeed, people power and cooperation are the factors needed to break the patterns maintaining the structures/cultures of war and violence. The author hence advocates for a collective ethic that emphasises peace, equality and responsibility.

This is a well-argued and persuasive book that gives a hint of what a non-militarised world could look like and how it should be accomplished. In my opinion, it should be read by anyone with an interest in peace and conflict issues as well as in the future of humanity generally, be it practitioners, policymakers, academics/students or the world citizen. Although some might not agree with all Diana Francis? claims and/or (interpretation of) evidence, her ethical discussions and arguments are still essential contributions to the debate on war and peace and are likely to be food for thought for anyone reading the book. Francis makes no claim that the paradigm shift will be an easy one. However, she remains confident in human nature and makes practical suggestions that do seem plausible in a longer time perspective.


Jessica Blomqvist, INCORE Intern, MA in Peace and Conflict Studies (Uppsala University, Sweden)



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