■ Misra, Amalendu, 2008. Politics of Civil Wars: Conflict, Intervention and Resolution. New York: Routledge. xiii + 183 p. ISBN 0415403464

Date01 July 2009
Published date01 July 2009
AuthorKristoffer Lidén
Subject MatterArticles
journal of PEACE RESEARCH volume 46 / number 4 / july 2009
well as spurious politics’ (p. 148). It leaves the
unpleasant aftertaste of ‘the white man’s burden’:
bringing chaos-ridden societies back into the fold
of the international community (p. 63) as a coun-
terweight to ‘the mass celebration of cruelty and
savagery … in a landscape devoid of any human
values’ (p. 44). Rather than the politics of civil
war, this demonstrates the politics of representing
civil war as ‘pre-political’, thereby allowing for
confused international engagement.
Kristoffer Lidén
Nhema, Alfred & Paul Tiyamba Zeleza, eds,
2008. The Roots of African Conflicts: The Causes
and Costs. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press &
OSSRA. xii + 244 pp. ISBN 9781847013002.
Nhema & Zeleza’s The Roots of African Conflicts:
The Causes and Costs consists of articles based on
papers presented at a conference in Addis Abeba
in 2004. We are presented with six chapters con-
cerned with African conflicts in general; three
chapters are case studies of specific conflicts;
another chapter surveys anti-terrorist legisla-
tion in four African countries; and, finally, one
chapter reassesses the revolutionary writer Frantz
Fanon. One valuable contribution is Shaw &
Mbabazi’s chapter on the two Ugandas – hidden
at the end of the volume – which provides a com-
plex analysis of the increasing disparity between
the northern districts and the rest of the coun-
try. Overall, however, this loosely edited book
is redundant and outdated. The majority of the
chapters mostly rehearse what are now old theo-
ries and debates concerning why African conflicts
occur, why they become particularly brutal, and
their connection to a process of globalization.
The demand for books covering the topic some-
what confusingly indicated by the title (what are
the ‘causes’ and ‘costs’ of ‘roots’?) will ensure
that libraries and others will buy the book. How-
ever, those who will find anything new here are
researchers interested in these topics: Uganda’s
economic development until 2004; anti-terror
legislation in Africa; quantitative exploration of
state collapse in Africa; and, the revolutionary
teachings of Frantz Fanon. One may only specu-
late why Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Kenya – which
receive minuscule attention in the volume – are
listed at the back and on the cover, while the
Ivory Coast, to which one chapter is dedicated, is
not mentioned in either place.
Øystein H. Rolandsen
Bush administration. Against the backdrop of
the 9/11 attacks, the Iraq war, Hurricane Katrina
and the investigation into who ousted CIA agent
Valerie Plame, McClellan capably explains how
partisanship, media manipulation and winning
the debate at all costs ultimately defeated the goal
of making sustainable policy decisions. In the
Bush era, truth could be subtly manipulated. It
was not necessary to lie. One had only to shade
the truth, ignore or disregard crucial caveats in
intelligence, use innuendo and implication to
encourage people to believe as fact things that
were unclear and possibly false. McClellan also
has this insight into one of the enduring mysteries
about George Bush – his intelligence. He writes,
his ‘leadership style is based more on instinct than
deep intellectual debate…. The fact that he has
been portrayed as not bright is unfortunate, but
it’s a result of his own mistakes – which could
have been prevented had his beliefs been properly
vetted and challenged by his top advisers.’
David Isenberg
Misra, Amalendu, 2008. Politics of Civil Wars:
Conflict, Intervention and Resolution. New York:
Routledge. xiii + 183 p. ISBN 0415403464.
With a promising title and sexy topics like ‘the
erotics of violence’ and ‘governing the ungov-
ernable’, I could not wait to dig into this book.
And compared to its appetizing size, the book is
extremely rich, including chapters on the nature
and causes of civil war, nationalism, violence,
intervention, rebuilding, governance, reconcilia-
tion and conflict transformation. These topics are
spiced up with fresh research literature, rendering
a heavy smell of informed scholarship. But where
are the nuances, the differences, the arguments?
Instead of delicately presenting the research field,
the literature is mashed together in a uniform stew,
topped with imprecise and often contradictory
generalizations like ‘every civil war differs from
every other civil war’ (p. 25); ‘when nationalism
fails, civil war appears’ (p. 27); ‘Civil war is about
the celebration of violence’ (p. 61); ‘A successful
post-conflict government is one which not only
embraces liberal democratic values but also works
towards the betterment of all the constituencies
within that polity’ (p. 110); and ‘There is some-
thing perverse about most civil wars’ (p. 114). If
any general argument can be teased out of this
dish, it is the truism of civil war as ‘typical of
weak states, a problem of underdevelopment as

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