In This Review

The Costs of Conversation: Obstacles to Peace Talks in Wartime
The Costs of Conversation: Obstacles to Peace Talks in Wartime
By Oriana Skylar Mastro
216 pp, Cornell University Press, 2019
Purchase

In this welcome contribution to the study of wartime diplomacy, Mastro shows why it can be so hard for belligerents to find a diplomatic route out of conflict. Embracing peace talks can signal weakness and a lack of resolve, which can damage the morale of one’s troops while emboldening the adversary. Only those factions confident in their strategic position will agree to open talks, and such offers are often combined with demonstrations of military strength. More circumspect parties to a conflict keep the initial conversations closed. Mastro catalogs many examples of how this dynamic has worked in practice, but her main case studies come from Asia during the Cold War, where she focuses on the experiences of China during the Korean War, China and India during their 1962 war, and the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War.