Elgar Handbook of Civil War and Fragile States
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Elgar Handbook of Civil War and Fragile States

Edited by Graham K. Brown and Arnim Langer

The Elgar Handbook of Civil War and Fragile States brings together contributions from a multidisciplinary group of internationally renowned scholars on such important issues as the causes of violent conflicts and state fragility, the challenges of conflict resolution and mediation, and the obstacles to post-conflict reconstruction and durable peace-building.
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Chapter 20: Obstacles to peace settlements

Roy Licklider


We know more about how wars begin than how they end. Intellectually, the problem of negotiating an end to a civil war is daunting; how do you make peace and agree to live in the same state with people who have killed your friends and family? How do you live with these people for the rest of your life? How do you trust them enough to work with them economically and socially to create a functioning political system? The problem is made much more difficult by the likely conditions under which this trust must be created. Typically, war or civil violence has not solved the problems that caused it. If two groups of people have been antagonistic towards each other, large-scale killing is unlikely to have improved relations. If maldistribution of economic resources has been a problem, the destruction of the economy will not help. The list can be extended. Peace, after all, is not the primary goal of the parties. On the contrary, the violence arose precisely because both sides felt there were other issues more important, things that were worth dying and killing for. Nor is this inappropriate. An unjust peace, whatever that means, is not necessarily a good bargain. This analysis does not assume that peace should be the primary goal; it only assumes that peace sometimes is and that, at such times, it is useful to have some idea about the conditions under which peace may be obtained. An ‘ideal type’ of post-war society might look like this: economically the infrastructure has been destroyed; the currency has been undermined; commerce is at a standstill; agriculture has been devastated; unemployment is high, which means there are no jobs for former soldiers; and there is no basis for exports. The country’s society has been undercut by the mutual dislike between warring groups, which is not any weaker than before the war; the wide distribution of weapons within the population; the people’s habit of non-obedience to government and authority generally; the undermining of traditional sources of authority; the need to demobilize and disarm at least two armies quickly; and the prevalence of young soldiers with no skills other than killing.

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