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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2005, Vol. 5 No. 1 .

Where is the Lone Ranger When We Need Him?: America?s Search For a Postconflict Stability Force
Robert M Perito

Washington: United States Institute of Peace, 2004
400 pp PB $19.50 ISBN: 1-929223-51-X

Perito?s Where is the Lone Ranger When We Need Him? provides a timely analysis of the necessity for constabulary forces in post-conflict situations. His central argument is that the US requires a post-conflict stability force ?composed of constabulary, police, and judicial specialists who would provide the capacity to establish post-conflict security? (p. 4) in conflict situations such as Afghanistan and Iraq. His thesis is clear, well-argued and includes compelling examples that justify his argument, such as the aftermath of Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq where simple military intervention without ongoing post-conflict strategies created tragic outcomes. Essentially his view is that ?[t]he response to the ?failed state syndrome? ? to intervene militarily, leave behind anarchy, and call it peace ? is not the solution.? (p. 4) His book therefore urges the US to adopt a force that fulfils the role of an international constabulary in a similar vein to that which existed in the form of the Texas Rangers in the early 1800s. Such forces, he argues, are better equipped and trained to fulfil the necessary duties required of them which the military and civilian nation-builders are ill-equipped to undertake. To illustrate this, Perito outlines the different peace-keeping forces that have existed throughout history and their relevance to contemporary peace operations.

Things to note about this book is that it is very US-centred. This is probably because Perito himself was a long-term US Foreign Service officer with expertise in the field of constabulary forces. This experience does give credibility to his work. However, the book may be US-centred in an attempt to convince the world?s only major superpower to take up the role of post-conflict peacekeeping, especially when the US is responsible for so many foreign military operations. Nevertheless, the book does draw on a number of non-US examples of constabulary forces and peace operations which gives it relevance to non-US readers.

Additionally, because of the US focus, Perito seemed non-critical of US military intervention in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq. His seeming neutrality and impartial attitude irked me because a person in his position should be speaking out against such atrocities. Nevertheless, such ?neutrality? may be intentional in order to persuade those within the US government to take a more ?rehabilitative? attitude when conducting foreign military operations.

Perito also somewhat ignored the role of the United Nation?s role in post-conflict peacekeeping. As a person who supports an international and unified approach to peacekeeping, I felt his ignorance of the UN in favour of a single-country approach was unfortunate.

Lastly, I maintain that Perito ignored other factors which contribute to continued conflict in nations after military intervention, the most pertinent factor being the so-called ?peacekeeping? force being seen as an invasion force itself! Obviously when the constabulary itself is not looked upon favourably by the local population, establishing peace and the rule of law will be near impossible regardless of the peacekeeping force?s training.

Overall, I found the book easy to digest and informative, although it is more suited to an academic or policy context than to leisure. This book therefore would appeal to those involved in peacekeeping operations, policy-makers, and scholars interested in the field of peacekeeping in conflict situations.

Adam Guise is a non-affiliated and recent Law, Arts and Education graduate from Southern Cross University, Australia who maintains a keen interest in social justice and ecological sustainability.

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