The Rise and Fall of Peace on Earth by Michael Mandelbaum - review by Michael Burleigh

Michael Burleigh

Imminent Return to Chaos & War

The Rise and Fall of Peace on Earth


Oxford University Press 218pp £18.99 order from our bookshop

Michael Mandelbaum is one of the most lucid American commentators on international affairs. His books are thought-provoking, even when one does not agree with him. He has an enviable knack of explaining complex matters in crisp and sometimes witty prose.

The focus of The Rise and Fall of Peace on Earth is the quarter-century following the end of the Cold War in 1989–90, which Mandelbaum says we will come to regard as largely a period of peace. The post-Cold War peace was ‘like the play of a slot machine that rewards the player with a jackpot: a rare event, but one produced by the normal working of the machine and, because of the way the machine works, very unlikely to be repeated any time soon’. If this sounds ominous as to our future, it is supposed to. Mandelbaum sees the aggressive nationalist revisionism exhibited by three major powers, China, Iran and Russia, as the greatest threat to global peace.

Naturally Mandelbaum’s rose-tinted view of the post-Cold War world means forgetting about the wars in the former Yugoslavia, the Rwandan genocide, the two Congolese wars and conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya and Syria, not to mention Eritrea and Somalia.

Mandelbaum argues that the two-decades-long ‘deep peace’ that prevailed in Europe

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