Useful Enemies


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When Waging Wars Is More Important Than Winning Them

David Keen

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There are currently between twenty and thirty civil wars worldwide, while at a global level the Cold War has been succeeded by a "war on drugs" and a "war on terror" that continues to rage a decade after 9/11. Why is this, when we know how destructive war is in both human and economic terms? Why do the efforts of aid organizations and international diplomats founder so often?

In this important book David Keen investigates why conflicts are so prevalent and so intractable, even when one side has much greater military resources. Could it be that endemic disorder and a "state of emergency" are more useful than bringing conflict to a close? Keen asks who benefits from wars--whether economically, politically, or psychologically—and argues that in order to bring them successfully to an end we need to understand the complex vested interests on all sides.

David Keen is professor of complex emergencies at the London School of Economics. He lives in Oxford, UK.

“An important perspective on the most troubling dimensions of recent local and regional wars." —Publishers Weekly
"By applying the same lens to war in both developed and developing countries, and highlighting how they are often driven by similar political, economic and psychological dynamics, Keen undermines the comfortable distinction between violence in failed states and the modern - or even post-modern - wars of the West."—Dominik Zaum, Times Higher Education
"David Keen is a specialist in African conflicts and his coverage of these is robust and compelling."—Adrian Weale, Literary Review
“While Keen’s analysis highlights the various functions of war, it also makes clear why policies based on those insights are unlikely to be adopted.”—Christopher Coyne, Reason Magazine

"The book’s real contribution lies in compiling the hidden functions of war in a comprehensive way and in making them accessible to a broader non-specialist public." Sibylle Scheipers, International Affairs

“Reading Useful Enemies should provoke military officers into thinking about how their profession is perceived by others and understand some of the obstacles to creating true unity of effort. —James Cricks, Military Review
ISBN: 9780300162745
Publication Date: July 31, 2012
304 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4