Matthew Preston returns politics to its rightful place at the heart of the study of internal conflict. Rejecting approaches that emphasise economics or ethnicity, this comparative investigation of the wars in Rhodesia and Lebanon sets out the complex political dynamic that eventually produced the ultimately sucessful peace agreements of Lancaster House and Taif respectively. It was a dynamic, though, in which the ebbs and flows of events at the negotiating table and on the battlefield played only a supporting role. Rather more significant were power struggles within belligerent parties that brought consolidated yet unscrupulous leadership, growing disempowerment and suffering of civilians of all communities, and the acquisition and subsequent leverage over the belligerents by regional powers. Yet the years of negotiation over seats in parliament failed to usher in a democratic era in either country. 'Peace' brought a de-escalation in violence, but the political struggle continued, to be won decisively by Robert Mugabe's ZANU(PF) in independent Zimbabwe, and by Syria and her allies in Lebanon. At a time when Western leaders proclaim the political necessity of addressing 'failed states', 'Ending Civil War' provides a salutary reminder that the competing elites of those failed states possess their own political agendas, ones frequently resistant to the command of great but distant powers. The primary agendas of civil war in Rhodesia and Lebanon were not those of economic greed, nor of ethnic hatred, but of the age-old phenomenon of the struggle for control: of organisations, of civilians, and, ultimately, of the state. The idioms of violence were those of the time - cyclical bouts of fighting, massacres, assassinations and kidnappings -but the deployment of limited violence for political ends was one which Carl von Clausewitz would clearly have recognised.
Ending Civil War
Rhodesia and Lebanon in Perspective