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To End a War (Modern Library Paperbacks) Paperback – May 25, 1999

3.9 out of 5 stars 52 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Between 1991 and 1995 over a quarter million people died during the conflict in the Balkan states. Meanwhile, the rest of Europe did not understand--or chose not to understand--what this war was about. The U.N. sent peacekeeping forces to aid the helpless, but would not assert its will to bring a peaceful end to the atrocities.

In a bold, contentious move by Clinton's first administration, a peace delegation was sent to Bosnia to secure an accord at any cost. A vocal proponent of this was Richard Holbrooke, then assistant secretary of state, who believed in hawkish diplomacy and a willingness to impose the moral will of America, if necessary. Holbrooke's belligerent pursuit of peace can be attributed in part to the tragedy of losing three of his team on the way through Sarajevo, making his quest for peace purposeful and passionate. In To End a War, an honest assessment and account of the events that followed, Holbrooke walks us through the complexities of the Dayton Accord from the perspective of the politicians and military men involved. It provides a fascinating insight into modern political diplomacy and the role of America in the international arena.

Without being a crusader, Holbrooke stresses throughout the need for responsible public service, subtly attacking some modern-day diplomats who use their positions irresponsibly. Ultimately he concludes that this peace process demonstrates the need for countries of power, such as the U.S., to take their of leadership roles seriously. To End a War is the definitive account of the peace process in the former Yugoslavia, important to anyone who wishes to understand the conflict in its entirety. --Jeremy Storey --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

American negotiator Holbrooke offers a fast-paced, first-person account of the American-led diplomatic initiative that ended the bloodshed of ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia in 1995. A veteran of the Vietnam peace talks, one-time ambassador to Germany and assistant secretary of state, Holbrooke guides readers through "fourteen weeks... filled with conflict, confusion, and tragedy before... success." This is a penetrating portrait of modern diplomacyAwhat the author describes as "something like a combination of chess and mountain climbing." Spurred on by the deaths of three colleagues on his negotiating team (their armored personnel carrier toppled over a cliff on a treacherous approach to Sarajevo), Holbrooke hammers out a cease-fire in an intensive shuttle among the three Balkan presidents, and then presides over the three-week cloistered peace conference in Dayton, Ohio. He covers the elements of crafting effective foreign policy: coordination among various agencies and personalities in Washington; dealing with European allies; ensuring that military and diplomatic efforts work in concert; negotiating with ethnic nationalist leaders; "spinning" the press; and selling the peace plan to a skeptical Congress and public. While he provides scant background into the historical roots of the Balkan conflict, Holbrooke details the various stages of the negotiating process and vividly describes the Balkan leaders: the arrogant Tudjman, the sly Milosevic and the bickering and disorganized Bosnian Muslims. Although often self-justifying, Holbrooke acknowledges several errors, such as allowing the Bosnian Serb entity to retain the "blood-soaked name" of Republika Srpska. Still, his achievement in forging peace in Bosnia is beyond question, and his account of that process is essential for understanding how American power can be brought to bear on the course of history.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Modern Library Paperbacks
  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Modern Library; Revised edition (May 25, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375753605
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375753602
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #73,639 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Holbrooke's book is a must-read for anyone closely interested in the wars following the breakup of Yugoslavia. It is a chronology with, at its core, a blow-by-blow and sometimes hour-by-hour description of the summer and autumn of 1995 when the Dayton accords took shape. The book is oft-criticized as Holbrooke's attempts to win back the swarms of people he alienated with his abrasive personality during his return to public service. If that was his intent, he probably failed, because his much-publicized anti-social behavior continues unabated to this day. In the unlikely event that any of his enemies were gullible enough to be flattered by the book, Holbrooke has no doubt subsequently given them fresh reason to dislike him. However, the book is still important, and, while self-aggrandizing, Holbrooke is possessed of a certain clarity of vision regarding the balkan wars. His list of five reasons, in chapter 2, for the West's failure to intervene in Yugoslavia is perceptive, especially his remarks about "Bad History, or the Rebecca West factor". The depiction of Milosevic is consistently interesting. Milosevic's own sorry history of losing four wars in the space of nine years, and the undeniable ruin he has visited on his own people, tend to paint him in broad and inaccurate colors. Holbrooke's account of his many sessions with Milosevic show the Serbian dictator as ruthless and cunning, and ultimately without any passion or vision. Milosevic was never interested in "greater Serbia", he sold the Croatian Serbs in a heartbeat. His betrayal of the Bosnain Serbs at Dayton, and the utter contempt he felt for them, marks him as a ruthless machiavelli rather than a true Serb nationalist.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
Mr. Holbrooke gives us a quite detaily led account of the negotiations a Dayton and before. He nevertheless makes good use of the book to tap himself over the shoukder numerous times. I beleive Mr.Holbrooke skipped Modesty 101 in college!! Furthermore it is very interesting to see that the European counterparts are conveniently forgotten as if they did not participate in the entire Dayton process. Luckily they all also have written their own version of the facts which kind of keeps the balance.
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Format: Paperback
I found this book a fascinating read and hard to put down at times despite it's many flaws. Holbrooke gives a good detailed description of what went on behind the scenes before and at Dayton in order to stop the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. He also offers us a glimpse of other negotiations he has participated in and how negotiations go on in general concerning major world powers with hot pressing issues. Despite his claim he likes to read about and understand historical perspective on the regions he is involved in during negotiations, it seems at times he's missing the bigger picture of what is going on around him outside of the negotiating room. I'll give examples.

First of all, he comes across as very arrogant and thinks of the Balkan politicians as behaving like children. Would he have felt this way if he had gotten more co-operation from them?

He squarely lays the blame for the wars in the region on Milosevic and Tudjman. Tudjman was a reaction to Milosevic after Milosevic had taken many steps already to destroy Yugoslavia. He didn't come in to the picture until years later so if Milosevic wasn't doing what he was doing, there would have been no Tudjman.

Holbrooke claims the crisis began in Slovenia. No, by this time the crisis had been going on for quite a while but Slovenia is where the crisis inevitably started in to armed conflict. A little reading of late 1980s/early 1990s Yugoslav history will show that.

Four days after James Baker left Yugoslavia, Slovenia and Croatia declared independence. Although factually true, Holbrooke implies a correlation that simply doesn't exist.

He seems to have been against Croatia's independence because Croatia has thousands of Serbs who live there. So what?
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Format: Paperback
Any diplomatic memoir written so recently after the events in question will actually shed little light on the political motives and decision-making at the highest levels, since most of the documents and decisions involved are subject to confidentiality. Thus, their primary value is in revealing details about the actual personalities involved: the politicians, war leaders and diplomats whose actions shape events. Here Holbrooke's account falls short. There's very little he says in this book that hasn't been recounted previously in any number of news reports and documentaries on the shuttle diplomacy and diplomatic negotiations that eventually led to the Dayton Accords which ended the actual fighting in Bosnia. "To End a War" tells the reader more about Holbrooke than anything else, for this is a very vain man who is attempting to secure his place in history by retelling the story of his astounding negotiating efforts. Therefore, his observations of the personalities and behavior of various Balkan politicians (with the possible exception of Slobodan Milosevic) are often superficial, although we do learn which ones Holbrooke seemed to dislike on a personal level. We also learn that Holbrooke was usually treated to tasty meals of roast lamb whenever he visited Belgrade or the Serbian strongholds in Bosnia-altogether useless facts, unless I'm misinterpreting some incredibly subtle metaphorical symbolism. The only good thing about Holbrooke's account is that the writing style is straightforward and easy to read, so if you need to read this book for some minor details on the American aspect of Balkan diplomacy in the mid-1990s, it won't take long to get through it.Read more ›
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