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

4.0 out of 5 stars 54 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: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #63,169 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Very well written and fast paced, highly detailed account of one person's perspective from the inner circle of negotiators. I was a bit distracted from time to time by Holbrooke's grandiosity and highly favorable comparison of himself to previous diplomats in very different circumstances, however, but I at the same time enjoyed his candor and willingness to be opinionated.
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By Rhayne on August 8, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I read this one for class and I am a huge history buff in the first place so I was excited. Knowing what I knew already about the war and the efforts that were going on I was really ready to read this one. From the time I bought it to the time I finished it I couldn't put it down. I read it in about six hours and I just was enthralled with it. He was up on the lines living the hell that went on over there, all the travel all the negotiations were an integral part of the war effort. I am grateful that this guy was willing to risk life and limb to do this and to put it into words.
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Format: Kindle Edition
...you should get familiar with the big picture context of the Bosnian war. 'Death of Yugoslavia' is an excellent 6 part documentary by the BBC. It will show the start of the chain reaction in the region (Kosovo) and will introduce you to the main players. The Dayton proceedings are in minute detail but did not add to a larger understanding of the motives if the key players. Regardless, Holbrooke's role in the peace process in Bosnia was pivotal to it's success.
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Whether you liked Richard Holbrooke or not (and he had many enemies), this is one of the best books about the final days of the Third Balkans War and the negotiations leading to the Dayton accords.

In true Holbrooke fashion, it is fairly self-centered, but not unjustifiably. It took someone with his iron fist and narcissistic temperament to match guys like Milosavic or Tudjman. In my humble opinion, few others could have done it.

I am aware there are other players in this drama who believe Holbrooke slanted the facts to show himself in the best light. Undoubtedly he did, since it is told exclusively from his first-person perspective. But from my perspective, this adds flavor to the book--you have no doubt where he stood on particular tactics or strategy and where he thought others were mistaken. Like all history, particularly first-person accounts, you need to read multiple versions to get this "real story".

In any case, this is not to debate his personal traits or selected narrative, but to commend this book as an excellent description of difficult negotiations that Holbrooke writes like a suspense story. Yes, we know how it ultimately ends, but he leaves us turning pages since his verson shows the conclusion was by no means certain.

Bottom line: an excellent first-person description of the events leading to the Dayton Accords by the man who successfully concluded them. A good read and highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
The Bosnian War of 1992-95 was a grueling conflict pitting the numerically superior (44% of the population of pre-war Bosnia and Herzegovina) but poorly armed Bosnian government forces against the fewer (33% of pre-war B.&H.) though better-equipped Bosnian Serbs. Within this overarching Bosnian-Bosnian Serb opposition, the smaller-still Bosnian Croat community (17% of pre-war B.&H.) at times fought both the Bosnian government and Bosnian Serb forces, until being pressured by the United States in 1994 into a tepid-at-best federation with the Bosnian government.
This grinding war continued into its third year in summer of 1995 with shocking casualties and atrocities on all sides, repeated humiliations of U.N."peacekeeping" forces, but very little change in the disposition of the front-lines, with the Bosnian Serbs controlling roughly 65% and the Bosnian-Croat Federation 35% of the territory of pre-war Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Deceased diplomat (he died of a ruptured aorta in December 2010) Richard Holbrooke's "To End a War" is a first-hand account of how in summer 1995 the Bosnian War moved into its denouement, with the Bosnian Serb massacre of 8000 Muslim men and youths at Srebrenica prompting robust U.N. airstrikes against Bosnian Serb forces, and re-armed and resurgent Bosnian-Croat Federation troops finally reconquering large swathes of territory and shrinking Bosnian Serb-controlled territory to around 45% of pre-war Bosnia and Herzegovina.
As President Bill Clinton's point man for Bosnian peace efforts, State Department envoy Holbrooke played a key role in all aspects of the often fevered diplomacy of these last six months of the Bosnian War. "To End a War" is a detailed account of these diplomatic efforts.
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