Islands of Agreement: Managing Enduring Armed Rivalries

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We are culturally conditioned to think of war and peace in binary terms of strict opposition. Correspondingly, we tend to focus our attention on conflict prevention or conflict resolution. But as Islands of Agreement demonstrates, peace and war are seldom polar totalities but increasingly can and do coexist within the confines of a single scenario.

Consequently, Gabriella Blum suggests that even where conflict exists, we regard it as only one dimension of an ongoing, multifaceted interstate relationship. The result is a shift in perspective away from the constricting notions of "prevention" or "resolution" toward a more holistic approach of relationship management.

This approach is especially pertinent because conflicts cannot always be prevented or resolved. Through case studies of long-enduring rivalries--India and Pakistan, Greece and Turkey, Israel and Lebanon--Blum shows how international law and politics can function in the battlefield and in everyday life, forming a hybrid international relationship.

Through a strategy she calls "islands of agreement," Blum argues that within the most entrenched and bitter struggles, adversaries can carve out limited areas that remain safe or even prosperous amid a tide of war. These havens effectively reduce suffering and loss and allow mutually beneficial exchanges to take place, offering hope for broader accords.

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Editorial Reviews

Foreign Affairs
The book offers detailed historical accounts of three prominent enduring rivalries: between India and Pakistan, Greece and Turkey, and Israel and Lebanon. In each case, Blum illuminates the ways in which governments open their countries to specific accommodations even as the overall conflict--and the suffering of citizens and soldiers--continues.
Brian Mandell
A compelling case for scholars and practitioners alike to focus on narrowly bounded conflict management initiatives as a most promising way to mitigate certain patterns of conflict that recur within enduring rivalries.
P. Terrence Hopmann
Provides important and useful lessons for both the theory and practice of international conflict management.
Anne-Marie Slaughter
Islands of Agreement genuinely offers a new paradigm for thinking about conflict. It argues that in prolonged, intractable conflicts, the best can be the enemy of the good. Efforts to resolve the conflict, to transform war into peace, and the determination to assess all proposals regarding the conflict by that measure, ignore the possibility that even violent conflict and cooperation can exist side by side. Finding and using these islands of agreement gives us an entire new arsenal of tools that we can use to improve the lives of people on both sides of the conflict. Gabriella Blum has built on her direct experiences in Israel and Lebanon and combed the literature of negotiation, conflict studies, and international relations to write a bold, original, and far-sighted book.
Foreign Affairs

War and peace are often seen as the two elemental states of affairs in international relations. When hostilities erupt, the task of diplomacy is to end the violence and reestablish peace. But some armed conflicts between states endure, resisting final settlement but persisting in a state short of total war. The Cold War struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union is perhaps the most prominent example. Blum argues that these sorts of protracted armed rivalries are often better managed rather than solved, because seeking full settlement is to invite endless frustration and danger while missing opportunities for more limited but stabilizing agreements. She provides a nice depiction of the special logic of these "mixed motive" conflicts, in which neither party is willing to resolve the core contested issues but both may be willing to carve out specific areas of their relationship to be regulated -- what Blum calls "islands of agreement." The book offers detailed historical accounts of three prominent enduring rivalries: between India and Pakistan, Greece and Turkey, and Israel and Lebanon. In each case, Blum illuminates the ways in which governments open their countries to specific accommodations even as the overall conflict -- and the suffering of citizens and soldiers -- continues. The book has a tougher time answering the larger and trickier question of whether these "islands of agreement" provide incremental steps toward peace or undercut the constituencies for a more sweeping and permanent settlement. <

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674024465
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 376
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Gabriella Blum is Learned Hand Visiting Assistant Professor of Law, Harvard Law School.

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Table of Contents


1. The Conceptual Framework

2. India and Pakistan: Islands of the Sub-Continent

3. Greece and Turkey: Archipelagos of Agreement

4. Israel and Lebanon: An Island of Agreement at Work

5. Testing Theory in Practice

Appendix I.

Israel-Lebanon Monitoring Group Statistics

Appendix II.




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