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v2.1 Reference

Keeping the Peace

Lasting Solutions to Ethnic Conflicts

What strategies can a government use to end violent ethnic conflicts in the long term? Under what conditions do these strategies work best, and what are their limitations? Are there some ethnic conflicts that governments simply cannot solve? Drawing on an intimate knowledge of the Middle East as well as the experiences of trouble spots in Asia, Africa, and Europe, political scientist and RAND analyst Daniel Byman examines how government policies can affect—and, in some cases, prevent—the recurrence of violent ethnic conflict.

Byman identifies and describes five key strategies: coercing groups and leaders, coopting key elites, changing group identities, implementing power sharing systems, and partitioning states. After weighing the strengths and weaknesses of each of these internal solutions, he also considers the benefits and risks of outside intervention. But Byman's prescription is tempered with realism. "Even under the best circumstances," he concludes, "no single strategy is sufficient to keep the peace after a bloody ethnic war. Only the optimal combination of multiple strategies, implemented in the proper sequence, will ensure success."

About the Author

Daniel L. Byman is a policy analyst with the RAND Corporation and the research director of RAND's Center for Middle East Public Policy. He is the co-author of The Dynamics of Coercive Force: American Foreign Policy and the Limits of Military Might.


"A useful primer for the study of ethnic conflict, one whose prinicpal strength lies in its deft and succinct summarites of the main approaches to the study of ethnicity and conflict... His discussion of the distinctive features of ethnic civil wars shows a particular sensitivity to their uniqueness."

- Sumit Ganguly - Perspectives on Political Science

"In a survey that is dense with insights but still a remarkably effortless read, Byman discusses five approaches to ethnic conflict."

- Sven Gunnar Simonsen - Journal of Peace Research


"Daniel Byman combines superior scholarship with pragmatic policy analysis in this excellent survey of ethnic conflict. His analysis of alternative policy responses to ethnic conflict problems—the heart of the study—is systematic, thoughtful, and balanced. He reminds us that, although crafting peace is difficult, it is not always impossible. This book advances both scholarship and the prospects for ethnic peace."

- Michael E. Brown, Director, Center for Peace and Security Studies, Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University

"Daniel Byman's Keeping the Peace is an immensely learned and informative book. Byman assesses five contending approaches to resolving ethnic civil war—coercing combatants toward peace, coopting them, nurturing identity change among combatants, political participation for combatants, and partition. His writing is clear, his conclusions are judicious, and his policy recommendations are both clever and practical. This study is important reading for students of civil war, conflict resolution, and the Middle East; and for policy makers who face the task of resolving ethnic civil wars."

- Stephen Van Evera, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

"Keeping the Peace offers a broad-gauge analytic framework for governments facing serious (i.e., violent) ethnic conflict. As such, it does a better job than any book currently available of separating what we know, what we don't know, and what we should by now know is completely wrong. Byman's command of the theoretical literature is good, and the book is well-organized."

- Chaim Kaufmann, Lehigh University

"A lucid and clear-eyed account of the options available for managing ethnic conflict. This pragmatic and thoughtful book lays out both the promise, and perhaps most usefully, the pitfalls of various strategies. It does not shy away from discussion of policies, including coercion, manipulation, and partition, that are less than ideal but that in some cases may offer the best chance of breaking cycles of bloodshed. This is a must-read for anyone, scholars or practitioners, interested in curbing the recurrent violence of ethnic strife."

- Page Fortna, Institute for War and Peace Studies, Columbia University
Johns Hopkins University Press
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