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Peace at Any Price: How the World Failed Kosovo Europe Serbia Iain King Cornell University Press 1 edition


25th September 2011 History Books 10 Comments

It is to their immense credit that one of the most noticeable aspects of the work is the almost complete lack of discernable bias towards either side…. The authors have presented what will rightly be seen as one of the most perceptive accounts ever written on the practical difficulties associated with peace building in the aftermath of ethnic conflict. All-in-all, this work is an extremely important and very well written account of the work of the UN in Kosovo. — Journal of Southern Europe and the Balkans

PICKING up this book one might be tempted to splutter in amazement at its subtitle. How the world failed Kosovo? Compare and contrast with Iraq: number of peacekeepers killed in Kosovo by hostile forces? Zero. Resources? Twenty-five times more money and 50 times as many troops, if measured on a per head basis, than in Afghanistan. So, with troops dying daily in Iraq and Afghanistan and with billions of dollars poured into them only to shatter the former and turn the latter into the biggest drugs producer in the world, Kosovo would actually seem to be a world-class success, hardly a failure. The authors, both of whom have worked for the UN mission in Kosovo, would beg to differ. And despite its rather sensationalist title, they have produced an excellent and timely book.

Although it has hardly made the front pages, there has been some intense discreet diplomacy concerning this problematic legacy of the Balkan wars in recent weeks. Talks on Kosovo’s future began in February under the aegis of the UN and are led by the former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari. Technically Kosovo remains a part of Serbia, but since 1999 it has been under the jurisdiction of the UN. Of its 2m people more than 90% are ethnic Albanians who want nothing less than full independence. Serbia and Kosovo’s Serbian minority reject this. Mr Ahtisaari says that the likelihood of Serbs and Albanians reaching a compromise is as likely as two men having a baby together.

He will probably soon recommend some form of independence for Kosovo. It is quite possible, when he does, that violence will break out again. At that point, anyone who wants to know what has happened in Kosovo since NATO’s intervention in 1999 will be relieved to find this detailed book analysing the work of the UN, which has tried to administer the place for the last six years, and whose mandate is now coming to an end. The authors find much to criticise, and in much of this they are justified. However, many of their comments are made with the benefit of hindsight, and they are harsh.

What is refreshing are their frank judgments. For example: Most Albanians who took up arms to challenge Serbian oppression did not object to one ethnic group bullying all the others; they simply wanted their group to be the one on top. The authors believe the UN should have been more robust about challenging what they call the thugocracy which they say emerged in the wake of the Kosovo war. This is true, but as they point out, most of the damage was done in the first few weeks and months after the war when the UN did not have the resources to do it, although NATO did.

This is a serious and well-considered book, which makes suggestions about what has gone wrong and how such mistakes can be avoided by future international missions. The overriding lesson from Kosovo, say the writers, is this: stable societies don’t just happen, they are built. An international administration must be prepared to confront and defeat the forces that preserve the unacceptable aspects of the status quo. Most readers of The Economist would agree with that. But very few of those readers are Kosovars, let alone Iraqis, Afghans or Sudanese. Herein lies the real problem perhaps? — The Economist September 21, 2006

This remarkable book could not be more timely …. they deserve to be warmly congratulated for a cogently argued, brilliantly presented and, above all, highly informative and thought-provoking piece of work. — International Affairs

“The authors, both of whom have worked for the UN mission in Kosovo…have produced an excellent and timely book.” — The Economist, September 21, 2006

The aim in winning the peace following the 1999 Kosovo war was stated early and often: “to transform Kosovo into a society in which all its members could live in security and dignity.” But that is not what has happened. Why not? Because it was a wrong war? No, say the authors. Because the mission was too much for the international community? No again. Because the wrong people were in charge? Once more, no. Rather, because too little was understood about the obstacles, too little was provided for the mission early on, too little was done to overcome the inevitable disunity among multiple agencies, too unrealistic was the timeframe. The authors end with ten lessons, among them: security before democracy, focus less on ending wars than establishing a just peace, the “overall vision is more important than detailed objectives,” and “a mission must be prepared to assert its authority from day one.” — Foreign Affairs May 2007

This book is a personal and compelling account of what has gone wrong in Kosovo and how the process of building stable societies can be done better in the future. — Journal of Peace Research

“Cogent ,timely, and comprehensive, this well written and often compelling book should be read by all who want to make a success of what the international community has so far mostly failed atrebuilding states after conflict. Kosovo is, on a per capita basis, the world’s most heavyweight modern attempt at reconstructing a state after war. It has so far failed and we need to know why, what went wrong, and what we need to do better. This book, written by two people who took part, is the first comprehensive study of the Kosovo operation and provides a much needed, balanced, and convincing review of what has happened and what we must not allow to happen again.”Lord Paddy Ashdown, GCMG, former High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina

“The authors have lived and worked the issues they write about for years. The benefits are evident: a book that is profoundly researched, sensible, intelligent and important.”Jason Burke, The Observer

“Peace at Any Price is an important, timely, and comprehensive addition to our understanding of the difficult, but vital, process of conflict transformation. Iain King and Whit Mason provide a frank account of the international community’s experience in Kosovo and a valuable guide to building stable societies in war-torn regions.”Dana Eyre, USIP

In June 1999, after three months of NATO air strikes had driven Serbian forces back from the province of Kosovo, the United Nations Security Council authorized creation of an interim civilian administration. Under this mandate, the UN was empowered to coordinate reconstruction, maintain law and order, protect human rights, and create democratic institutions. Six years later, the UN’s special envoy to Kosovo, Kai Eide, described the state of Kosovo: “The current economic situation remains bleak. . . . respect for rule of law is inadequately entrenched and the mechanisms to enforce it are not sufficiently developed. . . . with regard to the foundation of a multiethnic society, the situation is grim.” In Peace at Any Price, Iain King and Whit Mason describe why, despite an unprecedented commitment of resources, the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), supported militarily by NATO, has failed to achieve its goals. Their in-depth account is personal and passionate yet analytical and tightly argued. Both authors served with UNMIK and believe that the international community has a duty to intervene in regional conflicts, but they suggest that Kosovo reveals the difficult challenges inherent in such interventions. They also identify avoidable mistakes made at nearly every juncture by the UN and NATO. We can be sure that the international community will be called on to intervene again to restore the peace of shattered countries. The lessons of Kosovo, cogently presented in Peace at Any Price, will be critically important to those charged with future missions.

It is to their immense credit that one of the most noticeable aspects of the work is the almost complete lack of discernable bias towards either side…. The authors have presented what will rightly be seen as one of the most perceptive accounts ever written on the practical difficulties associated with peace building in the aftermath of ethnic conflict. All-in-all, this work is an extremely important and very well written account of the work of the UN in Kosovo. — Journal of Southern Europe and the Balkans

PICKING up this book one might be tempted to splutter in amazement at its subtitle. How the world failed Kosovo? Compare and contrast with Iraq: number of peacekeepers killed in Kosovo by hostile forces? Zero. Resources? Twenty-five times more money and 50 times as many troops, if measured on a per head basis, than in Afghanistan. So, with troops dying daily in Iraq and Afghanistan and with billions of dollars poured into them only to shatter the former and turn the latter into the biggest drugs producer in the world, Kosovo would actually seem to be a world-class success, hardly a failure. The authors, both of whom have worked for the UN mission in Kosovo, would beg to differ. And despite its rather sensationalist title, they have produced an excellent and timely book.

Although it has hardly made the front pages, there has been some intense discreet diplomacy concerning this problematic legacy of the Balkan wars in recent weeks. Talks on Kosovo’s future began in February under the aegis of the UN and are led by the former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari. Technically Kosovo remains a part of Serbia, but since 1999 it has been under the jurisdiction of the UN. Of its 2m people more than 90% are ethnic Albanians who want nothing less than full independence. Serbia and Kosovo’s Serbian minority reject this. Mr Ahtisaari says that the likelihood of Serbs and Albanians reaching a compromise is as likely as two men having a baby together.

He will probably soon recommend some form of independence for Kosovo. It is quite possible, when he does, that violence will break out again. At that point, anyone who wants to know what has happened in Kosovo since NATO’s intervention in 1999 will be relieved to find this detailed book analysing the work of the UN, which has tried to administer the place for the last six years, and whose mandate is now coming to an end. The authors find much to criticise, and in much of this they are justified. However, many of their comments are made with the benefit of hindsight, and they are harsh.

What is refreshing are their frank judgments. For example: Most Albanians who took up arms to challenge Serbian oppression did not object to one ethnic group bullying all the others; they simply wanted their group to be the one on top. The authors believe the UN should have been more robust about challenging what they call the thugocracy which they say emerged in the wake of the Kosovo war. This is true, but as they point out, most of the damage was done in the first few weeks and months after the war when the UN did not have the resources to do it, although NATO did.

This is a serious and well-considered book, which makes suggestions about what has gone wrong and how such mistakes can be avoided by future international missions. The overriding lesson from Kosovo, say the writers, is this: stable societies don’t just happen, they are built. An international administration must be prepared to confront and defeat the forces that preserve the unacceptable aspects of the status quo. Most readers of The Economist would agree with that. But very few of those readers are Kosovars, let alone Iraqis, Afghans or Sudanese. Herein lies the real problem perhaps? — The Economist September 21, 2006

This remarkable book could not be more timely …. they deserve to be warmly congratulated for a cogently argued, brilliantly presented and, above all, highly informative and thought-provoking piece of work. — International Affairs

“The authors, both of whom have worked for the UN mission in Kosovo…have produced an excellent and timely book.” — The Economist, September 21, 2006

The aim in winning the peace following the 1999 Kosovo war was stated early and often: “to transform Kosovo into a society in which all its members could live in security and dignity.” But that is not what has happened. Why not? Because it was a wrong war? No, say the authors. Because the mission was too much for the international community? No again. Because the wrong people were in charge? Once more, no. Rather, because too little was understood about the obstacles, too little was provided for the mission early on, too little was done to overcome the inevitable disunity among multiple agencies, too unrealistic was the timeframe. The authors end with ten lessons, among them: security before democracy, focus less on ending wars than establishing a just peace, the “overall vision is more important than detailed objectives,” and “a mission must be prepared to assert its authority from day one.” — Foreign Affairs May 2007

This book is a personal and compelling account of what has gone wrong in Kosovo and how the process of building stable societies can be done better in the future. — Journal of Peace Research

Peace at Any Price: How the World Failed Kosovo (Crises in World Politics)

Invisible Nation: How the Kurds’ Quest for Statehood Is Shaping Iraq and the Middle East

Numbering 25 million, the Kurds remain the largest ethnic group in the world without its own nation. This is not for want of trying, as British reporter Lawrence writes in this lucid, eye-opening account of the long, brutal struggle that continues despite opposition from Mideastern nations and the U.S. After centuries of oppression under the Turks, the Kurds had a chance at statehood when the Ottoman Empire collapsed in 1918. The Middle East was remapped, with the Kurds divided among Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria. Decades of bloody rebellion were ignored until Saddam Hussein’s defeat in the First Gulf War. The Kurds rose again, anticipating U.S. assistance. Only media horror at Hussein’s genocidal suppression of their revolt galvanized Western nations into action. When the no-fly zone was established in northern Iraq, Baghdad lost its capacity for governing the Kurds. Still fearful of Hussein, the Kurds cooperated eagerly as the U.S. planned a second Iraq invasion, but the Kurds’ vision of statehood remains unfulfilled. Readers will close this engrossing but disturbing history with respect for a people that has struggled for millennia and whose difficulties continue to generate headlines. 30 b&w photos. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

The dramatic story of the Kurds and their quest to create a nationessential reading for anyone who wants to understand how the turmoil in Iraq will play out.

The American invasion of Iraq has been a success for one group: the Kurds. For centuries they have yearned for official statehoodand now, as one of the accidental outcomes of the invasion, the United States may have helped them take a big step toward that goal. Informed by his deep knowledge of the people and region, Quil Lawrences intimate and unflinching portrait of the Kurds and their heretofore quixotic quest offers a vital and original lens through which to contemplate the future of Iraq and the surrounding Middle East.
Invisible Nation: How the Kurds’ Quest for Statehood Is Shaping Iraq and the Middle East










  • 10 responses to "Peace at Any Price: How the World Failed Kosovo Europe Serbia Iain King Cornell University Press 1 edition"

  • Jeff C
    19:31 on September 25th, 2011
    Reply to comment

    Peace at any Price Peace at Any Price: How the World Failed Kosovo (Crises in World Politics)was recommended to me as probably the most authorative work on the UN work in Kosovo.

    The authors were deeply involved on the ground there, and it shows in the depth and quality of the analysis.

    The book contains an excellent description and chronology of overall events. It then moves into a deeper analysis and consideration of what happened, before a final (brilliant) conclusions section which is really what made this book so worthwhile for me.

    Although Peace at any Price is a brilliant macro analysis of the Kosovo intervention, there are loads of examples and personal accounts which bring the analysis to life.

    I read Peace at any Price alongside Joe Sacco’s also excellent “Safe Area Gorazde” Safe Area Gorazde: The War in Eastern Bosnia 1992-1995 and found that Sacco’s work added an additional level of human and emotional understanding, on top of Mason’s analysis of the events.

  • Anna Poelo
    23:50 on September 25th, 2011
    Reply to comment

    This book presents a modern history of the Kurdish people, with most of the text focusing on the affairs of this people in the 20th century, especially under the regime of Saddam Hussein. The book provides a multi-faceted examination of the Kurds. First, it looks at the internal affairs of this people, and the long rivalry between its two political parties. Second, the book also examines the Kurds’ relations to other powers, both near (Iran, Turkey, etc…) and far (USA, UK, etc…). The author takes pains to show how the Kurds’ “foreign policy” was inextricably linked to its domestic situation, with specific Kurdish leaders occasionally siding with an outside force to gain leverage over fellow Kurds. Though technically a book about all the Kurds, the book focuses mainly on those living in what is now Iraq. Less attention is paid to the Kurds in Turkey, and even less to those living in Iran. For example, erstwhile Kurdish terrorist Ocalan is given minor treatment in this book amounting to less than a page of text. The book also avoids any anthropological analysis of the origins of this race, and essentially picks up with the career of Salahudin, the famous Muslim leader during the Crusades. All in all, a great book that makes for a lively and engaging read.

  • The Dealer
    6:57 on September 26th, 2011
    Reply to comment

    Lawrence’s insightful look at this little understood nation will open your eyes to events that led to America’s invasion of Iraq. His first hand knowledge and in-depth research will introduce you to a cast of characters that underlay America’s invasion and continue to influence events in the region. This eminently readable book will be referred to by historians for decades to come as America’s misadventure is studied.
    Lawrence’s travels have clearly given him a great fondness for the region. In vivid language, Lawrence gives you a feel for the landscape and people of Iraqi Kurdistan. Several times while reading Invisible Nation I found myself thinking that I wanted to travel there. No other person has made me want to visit Iraq.
    Buy this book!

  • Saner Rijet
    13:52 on September 26th, 2011
    Reply to comment

    This book does a good job describing Kurdish history from the point of the Kurds! It also describes how America did the right things for all the wrong reasons!

  • cjinsd
    20:26 on September 26th, 2011
    Reply to comment

    This book was very helpful to me during my 1 year tour in northern Iraq working with the Kurds. I had the good fortune to meet a few of the individuals written about in the book. With rare exception I found the information in the book to be spot on. One glaring exception was the depiction of Karim Sinjari. I worked with him on many occasions and found him to be intelligent, well informed, deeply devoted to his people and not at all aloof or arrogant. Strongly recommend this book to anyone who wants to gain a basic understanding of the situation there, particular if you are going to travel or work there.

  • Nathan Davies
    11:34 on September 27th, 2011
    Reply to comment

    This is a good introduction to the politics of Iraqi Kurds. As always, consider this a single source no matter how well the references are and realize the author is close to the people. But overal, he appears relatively unbiased.

  • HS Tan
    10:13 on September 28th, 2011
    Reply to comment

    This book does two specific things:
    1. Provides modern history of the Kurds, mainly the Kurds inside Iraq. This is not an all-encompassing Kurdish history book, although it does touch on some collective Kurdish events.
    2. Provides needed perspective on U.S. operations in Iraq: post-1991 and the 2003- invasion. It shows the Kurdish opinion of U.S. intervention.

    If you’re looking for this scope of information, this is an excellent read. If you are looking for a complete history of all Kurds everywhere, this is not the book.

    Having said this, Quil’s writing style engages the reader and jumps to related events when necessary to help bring clarity. This is not a read that stiffly follows a chronological time line.

    Some takeaways from this book:
    1. Iraqi Kurds are independent as a nation already within “Kurdistan,” probably since 1991, and we simply have not “officially” recognized them within an international venue (such as UN).
    2. The coming choice for the international community will be to either ignore this, or take a leap and recognize the nation of Kurdistan, even if its borders are only within the confines of Iraq.

  • susies
    22:12 on September 28th, 2011
    Reply to comment

    As a producer/director for British and American TV I have made numerous films in and about Iraq over the last five years, but Invisible Nation is a revelation to me. Like most people covering the tragedy, I have been distracted by the carnage in the south and Lawrence’s book fills a gaping hole. He has been a regular visitor there since shortly before the US invasion and, as well as providing a potted history of Iraqi Kurdistan, he paints a vivid picture of the country, its people and its leaders. There is a wonderful breezy energy to his prose and by the end we feel not only informed but also emotionally involved in what happens there.

    Lawrence was an eye-witness to many of the key events he describes and he talks us through the strange parallel history that has unfolded. As Sunni and Shia Iraq have descended into anarchy, the Kurds, largely un-noticed, have established the prosperous, peaceful, functioning democracy (rough and ready though it may be) that was supposed to be the goal all along. The paradox is that it is only the weakness of their southern neighbours that has enabled them to do so and, should the US succeed in restoring stability in the rest of Iraq, Baghdad will almost certainly try and re-establish its traditional control. The Sunnis can look for support to Saudi Arabia, the Shias to Iran. The Kurds have no-one to shake a stick on their behalf other than us, and we have always betrayed them in the past. The truly unforgivable final act in this tragedy, as we scuttle away from the disaster we have inflicted, would be to do so again as the price of peace.

    Richard Sanders

  • HPBlue
    7:59 on September 29th, 2011
    Reply to comment

    In the past decade, Kosovo has only ever hit the headlines because of violence and tragedy. Ethnic cleansing, war crimes, NATO intervention: these events dominated the news agenda for the first six months of 1999 and defined Kosovo’s international reputation. Sadly, destruction is more telegenic than construction, and the important attempts to steer Kosovo towards a better future have received far less attention.

    The authors’ task is to tell the story of the UN mission that has administered Kosovo from the early days after NATO intervention through to – presumably – its imminent independence (conditional, supervised or however formulated). This is the first significant study of UNMIK, and succeeds brilliantly in illuminating its challenges, dilemmas and limitations.

    From its uncertain first steps, by 2001 UNMIK oversaw the largest per-capita investment in peacebuilding that the world has ever seen. Yet the returns on that investment have been unimpressive, yielding a host of lessons that the “international community” urgently needs to learn if it is to succeed in elsewhere.

    Paying particular attention to the orchestrated ethnic violence of March 2004, the authors convincingly portray an international community consistently unwilling to confront hardliners in the Kosovo Albanian community. This timidity is the source of the failure identified in the title, and has long-term consequences for Kosovo and its population.

    As a ground-breaking study, the book almost inevitably left me wanting more. What could UNMIK realistically have achieved, given the timeframe and resources available? How much influence could a short-term mission – however well-resourced – really exert over Kosovo’s long-term development? Social and political change is a long-term process, yet western politics – under the scrutiny of the 24-hour media – demands rapid results. Do we really have the stomach for the necessary long-term engagement, or are we content simply with the illusion that something is being done?

    Necessarily, the authors have been more conservative in their aims, but in exploring UNMIK’s successes and failures, they have rendered a great service to those who must grapple with these problems. We can only hope that future Donald Rumsfelds will choose to listen, and be willing to learn.

  • Lisa Llano
    18:14 on September 29th, 2011
    Reply to comment

    This book was well written.
    It was given as gift and was throughly enjoyed by the reader.
    Hope to see more books written by the author in the future.

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