In This Review

Preventing Violent Conflicts: A Strategy for Preventive Diplomacy

Preventing Violent Conflicts: A Strategy for Preventive Diplomacy
By Michael S. Lund
220 pp, U.S. Institute of Peace Press, 1996

Since the debacles in Somalia, Bosnia, and Rwanda, the buzzword in Washington has been "preventive diplomacy" as the key to future intervention. The idea that the international community should intervene in local conflicts at an early stage, before they escalate and entail onerous consequences for both local populations and foreign humanitarian donors, clearly makes a great deal of sense. This book, which reports on the work of a study group commissioned by the State Department, provides both historical case studies of failed and successful efforts at preventive diplomacy and a "tool kit" for carrying it out. Reading through the recommendations, it becomes clear that neither the goals nor the methods presented here are new when applied to core interests of great powers like the United States. When the United States dispatched the marines and Robert D. Murphy to Lebanon in 1958, and Philip Habib to that country in 1981, it was practicing preventive diplomacy in an area considered vital to its concerns. What is new is the idea that early intervention ought to be carried out on a multilateral basis and, more significantly, applied to local conflicts where the direct interests of the international community are small and primarily humanitarian. The latter involves a political choice, whose feasibility in the United States is probably considerably shakier than the author of the report concedes.