According to David Callahan, the greatest problem for U.S. policymakers in the post-cold war era has been the increase in ethnic conflict. He argues that American policy on this issue, lacking clarity and a vigorous sense of purpose, must be reconfigured, and Unwinnable Wars
prescriptively outlines the various components that might compose a more effective approach.
Written during Callahan's tenure as a visiting scholar at the Twentieth Century Fund, Unwinnable Wars explores in considerable detail the growing importance of self-determination movements at the end of the 20th century, and offers criteria for the United States to use when judging appropriate responses to these movements. Callahan systematically assesses how well the U.S. has done in predicting and understanding significant conflicts in the 1990s, considering specific cases of American leadership interventions, war-crimes indictments, and direct mediation.
Throughout, Callahan exhibits a firm understanding of U.S. foreign policy, past and present, particularly with regard to the foreign policy of the Clinton administration. He optimistically maintains that U.S. foreign policy, despite its present lack of coherency, can develop consistent and effective strategies for defusing and de-escalating ethnic conflicts. Although the United States will never be able to end ethnic wars entirely, Callahan believes that it can help make them less common and, when they do occur, to reduce both their intensity and their duration. --Bertina Loeffler
"A sober, reasoned and extremely well-articulated survey of the key questions surrounding U.S. interests and policies on ethnic conflict. No important consideration is omitted . . . A superb analysis."--Shashi Tharoor, The Washington Post Book World
"Callahan's incisive analysis and sensible recommendations should be required reading for U.S. diplomats, the Congress, and anyone sickened by these tragic conflicts."--Richard H. Ullman, Princeton University
"A rationale and a road for greater American activism to contain ethnic conflicts. Callahan's reasoning is steeped in common sense (for instance, early involvement pays off by lessening the scope for full-scale warfare down the road), and he does an admirable job . . . [His] may not be the cure-all answer we'd like to hear, but it is a realistic one."--Peter Mass, Los Angeles Times Book Review
"A skillful explanation of the explosion of conflicts within the last thirty years arising from religious, cultural, linguistic, and territorial differences--and of the policies the U.S. can pursue to defuse these tinderboxes . . . An intelligent, sober, nonmoralistic argument for mediating ethnic strife before killing fields result."--Kirkus Review