In This Review

When Violence Works: Postconflict Violence and Peace in Indonesia
When Violence Works: Postconflict Violence and Peace in Indonesia
By Patrick Barron
Cornell University Press, 2019, 300 pp

Several Indonesian provinces demonstrate a problem found in many parts of the world: the persistence of violence even after civil wars and ethnic conflicts come to formal ends. The scale of such incidents varies. After feuding Christians and Muslims agreed to a peace deal in Maluku in 2002, large-scale violent episodes continued to take place. After Indonesian forces finally quashed a separatist rebellion in Aceh in 2005, violence occurred frequently but on a small scale. And in North Maluku, an ethnic conflict that had religious overtones gave way to a period of stability with little violence. When explaining such disparate outcomes, scholars often focus on the effectiveness of reconciliation programs in softening communal hostility. But Barron takes a different approach, one based on his experience working in Indonesia for the World Bank. The key to minimizing the risk of conflict in these situations, he argues, is to ensure that formerly feuding elites have access to sufficient funds and political posts to provide security and stability. The focus on material incentives should be useful for policymakers. But judging from the informative stories that Barron uses to illustrate his analysis, primal hatreds still fuel conflict and do not yield easily to institutional fixes.