Enemies Into Friends: How the United States Can Court Its Adversaries

March 17, 2010

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In his inaugural address, President Barack Obama challenged governments "on the wrong side of history" that "we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist." During his first year in office, he reached out to Iran, Russia, Cuba, and other adversaries. In How Enemies Become Friends: The Sources of Stable Peace, Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow Charles A. Kupchan explores when and how rivals are able to find their way to peace, arguing that "accommodation, not confrontation, is essential for successful rapprochement."

He challenges the claim that democracy is necessary for peace, demonstrating that "nondemocracies can be reliable contributors to international stability." Thus, "the United States should assess whether countries are enemies or friends by evaluating their statecraft, not the nature of their domestic institutions." In a related article in the March/April issue of Foreign Affairs, Kupchan argues that Obama confronts the double challenge of securing the cooperation of recalcitrant regimes while also facing considerable domestic opposition to the accommodation of adversaries. "Washington will have to conduct not only deft statecraft abroad but also particularly savvy politics at home," he writes.

Case studies in the book include the onset of the Iroquois Confederation in the 1400s, Anglo-American rapprochement in the late 1800s, and reconciliation between Brazil and Argentina in the 1980s.

Kupchan also underscores that efforts at rapprochement often fail, requiring that they be pursued cautiously. He addresses the breakdown of amity through historical cases such as the U.S. Civil War, the expulsion of Singapore from Malaysia in 1965, the collapse of the Concert of Europe after 1848, and the demise of the Sino-Soviet alliance after 1958.

Kupchan concludes that commercial interdependence plays only an ancillary role in reconciliation. "Deft diplomacy, not trade or investment, is the critical ingredient needed to set enemies on the pathway to peace."

Advance Praise for How Enemies Become Friends:

"Kupchan’s book is fascinating, thought provoking, and consequential."

Henry Kissinger, former secretary of state

"This is a work of admirable breadth and unusual interest. Combining an engaging theoretical framework with an extraordinarily diverse set of case studies, Kupchan has produced a lucid work that should be valued by both the academic and policymaking worlds in sorting out the relationships among classic diplomacy, democracy, and peace."

Anthony Lake, Georgetown University

"In this intellectual tour de force Kupchan provides a theoretically ambitious, admirably eclectic, and empirically rich account of the different worlds of international relations that are normally studied in isolation: anarchy, rapprochement, security community, and union. This is a big book in every sense of the word and a major scholarly achievement."

Peter J. Katzenstein, Cornell University

To order, visit: www.cfr.org/how_enemies_become_friends

Charles A. Kupchan is CFR senior fellow for Europe studies. He is also professor of international affairs at the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. Kupchan was director for European affairs at the National Security Council (NSC) during the first Clinton administration. Before joining the NSC, he worked in the U.S. Department of State on the policy planning staff. He is the author of The End of the American Era: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Geopolitics of the Twenty-first Century, Power in Transition: The Peaceful Change of International Order, Civic Engagement in the Atlantic Community, Atlantic Security: Contending Visions, Nationalism and Nationalities in the New Europe, The Vulnerability of Empire, and The Persian Gulf and the West. Kupchan received a BA from Harvard University and MPhil and DPhil degrees from Oxford University.

The Council on Foreign Relations is an independent, nonpartisan membership organization, think tank, and publisher dedicated to being a resource for its members, government officials, business executives, journalists, educators and students, civic and religious leaders, and other interested citizens in order to help them better understand the world and the foreign policy choices facing the United States and other countries. Since 1922, CFR has also published Foreign Affairs, the leading journal on international affairs and U.S. foreign policy. CFR takes no institutional positions on matters of policy.