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Arnson, Cynthia J. and I. William Zartman (eds). Rethinking the Economics of War: The Intersection of Need, Creed, and Greed.

Arnson, Cynthia J. and I. William Zartman (eds). Rethinking the Economics of War: The Intersection of Need, Creed, and Greed. Washington, D.C: Woodrow Wilson Center Press and Baltimore, MD: The John Hopkins University Press, 2005. 300 pp.

The history of human society is filled with puzzles and patterns. One of such puzzles and patterns is the history of the wars supported by numerous religious beliefs, various sociopolitical and cultural factors related to the identity and creed, and economic philosophies of the time. Its actualization, at times, was also pressured by uncontrollable ecological thrust which often became the dominant ideological theme over time into the mundane daily affairs due to the simple functionality and profit of the process. Its history can probably be traced as far back as the commencement of human history itself. Its existence was very minute or temporal in the beginning, due to constant need for physical and social interdependence related to scarce resource distribution; however, the level of conflict increased at a higher degree during the period of agricultural era, associated with labor intensive economic activities, management of irrigation, expansion of the land mass, and indoctrination of religious dogma. It is visible in many parts of the world in different forms and names, often in very vivid social architecture.

To model a conceptual dimension regarding the etiology of the conflicts, all the factors can be grouped into two theoretical paradigms--a. the grievance based explanations and b. the explanations based purely on economic and rational factors following neo-Marxian theme, where the former includes everything that one can imagine and the latter is only resource based, meaning, initiating a conflict for simply survival and greed. According to the contributors of the book, much of the explanations that are offered in the social science literature, conceptualizing the conflict scenarios, are embedded in the economic and rational analyses emphasizing the initiation of a conflict for basic needs and greed, and are rarely grievance based, associated to creed, and other sociopolitical and cultural factors. They also argue that such analyses, by undermining other equally or sometimes more important factors, lead to wrong policy measures, often resulting in prolonging the already existing conflicts and deeper devastations.

To probe their central thesis, seven case studies have been presented analyzing wars in Lebanon, Peru, Sierra Leone, Angola, Congo, Colombia, and Afghanistan. The first chapter presents the basic postulations, the next seven chapters present the analytical findings, and the last two chapters present the policy and theoretical underpinnings associated with the basic postulations in a conclusive framework.

The analysis of Lebanese conflicts find that greed played a very powerful role in connection with drugs and oil trafficking, land acquisition, and expatriate remittances. The creed also played a significant role in connection with Christian-Muslim identity, faith, and group cohesion parallel to the resource acquisition. In the case of Peru's armed conflict involving the Shining Path and government forces leading to the loss of thousands of lives, the role of need and creed heavily intersected on a similar continuum. The initial rise of the Shining Path came into reality due to oppression by the ruling class and inequality in the Southern Highland. Its early movement had very little to do with greed or profit. While the cocaine trade significantly helped the group in managing its activities, the goal was not to exploit it. However, it became transparent as the conflict continued, accompanied by other demographic and ecological factors. In Sierra Leone, the armed insurgency started by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), and in the initial phase, depended on need and creed to oust a brutal exploitative regime. The criminalization of the RUF became a reality, later, being disenfranchised from the original philosophical goal as time continued accompanied by massive deprivation. In the Angolan setting, the need initiated the war where diamond and oil resources played a powerful role; however, in the end, need was overshadowed by creed, and conflict became a reified component based on social and territorial identities. The war in Congo can produce a puzzling understanding and synthesis because of involvement of multiple stakeholders from outside (Rwanda, Uganda, Angola, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, and Namibia). In this case, need producing greed, conversely, intersected each other along with outside participants' entry on both grounds led to and allowed the continuation of the conflict. The component of creed penetrated into the game as the multiplicity of ethnic rivalry played various roles based on a wide array of grievances. Much of the literature explaining Colombian armed conflict suggests economic issues at the heart of the conflict related to drugs and other important resources. According to the author, "the roots of the conflict are social and political", connected to factors like "grievances, ideology, leadership, military strategy, and international factors" along with the economic ones. The role of opium trade and international involvement is very vivid in the case of Afghanistan, which lends more of an economic explanation. However, the equation excluding the internal war and regional conflict in Afghanistan's neighborhood between various factions and their spillover provides a much broader scenario.

The final two chapters reiterate the significance of the three covariates in analyzing any global conflicts by echoing the central theme, highlighting the importance of reformulating the modeling processes in the conventional scholarships, not just about the etiology of the war and intrastate conflicts, but also peace process framework as well, to achieve a better and long term objective. The contributors discuss the importance of looking into the components of need, creed, and greed in independent mode as well as in interdependent mode. Additionally, the importance of the timing of the emergence of each component is discussed in the conflict process and its initiation addressing the issues of sequentiality and the concomitance of the three components. In such a process, it is postulated following all the case studies that each component has special theoretical and mitigatory underpinnings according to historical relevance, and socioeconomic and cultural conditions from the emergent structural positioning of the societies involved in the conflicts.

In examining the basic premise, all the authors remained congruent with each other in terms of chapters and the individual analysis. The book maintains a high level of scholarship, addressing the audiences from virtually every field that attempts to understand human social dynamics. The elaboration of one important element would make the work much more complete and appealing from the paradigmatic standpoint. The element in point would be the elaboration of international involvement in initiating various internal armed conflicts. The issue of international role that has been addressed in the analyses is very cursory. A much more detailed probing into the said issue would augment the general quality of the framework and conclusiveness.

Muhammad M. Haque

McNeese State University
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Title Annotation:Miscellaneous
Author:Haque, Muhammad M.
Publication:Journal of Third World Studies
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 22, 2008
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