Exit Strategies and State Building

February 28, 2013

Editor: Richard Caplan
Edition: First
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Pages: 320
Price: £60.00 and £22.50
ISBN: 9780199760114 and 0121

With Nato forces planning their withdrawal from Afghanistan, this timely and important volume addresses a gap in the academic literature on post- conflict state-building. It explores the strategies and mechanisms - or lack thereof - that states, coalitions and international organisations have employed to exit territories where they have operated in one capacity or another.

It examines a variety of approaches to exit, from a desperate ‘cut and run’ to more orderly transitions of authority

The book examines a variety of approaches to exit, from a desperate “cut and run” to more orderly transitions of authority, whether from one type of international mission or operation to another, from one form of international or regional organisation to another, or from an external entity to the domestic government of a territory. The use on the book’s cover of Hubert van Es’ iconic photograph of the escape by helicopter of CIA personnel from Saigon in April 1975 is slightly misleading, as the book is predominantly concerned with exit strategies relating to cases of state building, where one mission is frequently replaced by a successor and international involvement often continues in one form or another.

One of the book’s key findings is that exit should be thought of as a process rather than an event but, of course, processes are a little more difficult to capture in a camera shot.

Richard Caplan has arranged a fine collection of contributions on this subject, written by academics and practitioners, many of them leading authorities, with sections on withdrawals from colonial administrations in the post-Second World War era, multilateral peace operations, international administrations and military occupations. The book is predominantly concerned with the post-Cold War experience but the historical contributions are insightful and provide useful points of comparison.

Each section comprises two detailed country case studies prefaced by an essay setting out the general issues and lessons, such as John Darwin’s account of the retreat from empire in the post-war era and Dominik Zaum’s excellent overview of the dismantling of international administrations. The book concludes with a section on more general themes, such as legal and political economy perspectives and policy prescriptions.

This superior collection does an excellent job of defining and analysing a research agenda for this neglected area and sets a high standard against which future works on the subject should be compared.

Who is it for?
An essential text for final-year undergraduates and postgraduates on peace and conflict studies, international security and international relations programmes.

An effective mix of thematic and case study chapters, which are both concise and authoritative.

Would you recommend it?
Very much so.

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