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The men and women of the British armed forces are currently engaged in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Balkans in ‘peacekeeping operations’. How do we avoid these missions turning into long-term entanglements, like the current disaster that is Iraq? How do we bring our soldiers home? And what do we do about ‘failed states’ that are havens for gangsters and terrorists? Paddy Ashdown fears we will soon see major wars between nation states. Many will begin as minor conflicts that will expand into full-scale wars unless the international community intervenes. The way to stop the big wars is to deal promptly with the small ones.
There have been 15 UN-led interventions since 1946, and there are 74 wars in progress today. From his perspective as a former Royal Marine officer in the 1960s to the High Representative in Bosnia from 2002-6, Lord Ashdown is uniquely qualified to investigate the successes and failures of peace-keeping operations, reveal what lessons have been learned — and what lessons keep being forgotten. (The US strategy in Iraq serves as a ‘how not to’ example in almost every subject area.) His discussion of the highs and lows of previous missions includes George Robertson and the celebrated ‘Chivas Regal Accords’ negotiated in Balkan hotel bars. He points out that planning for post-war government in Germany began in 1943, two years before the guns fell silent. By contrast, George Bush sacked the teams working on plans for post-Saddam Iraq just as US and British forces invaded in 2003.
The men and women of our armed forces will be called to take part in many more of these missions in the next few years. SWORDS AND PLOUGHSHARES reveals the strategies required to avoid another Iraq-style disaster.
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