Kristian Berg Harpviken
Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)
This important book provides a sober investigation of the conditions under which 'permanent neutrality' is a viable strategy for vulnerable states. Andisha's framework consists of three external factors (geopolitical position, conflict between other powers, international consensus) and two internal ones (stability and cohesion, economic and military capabilities). Based on the case analyses, Andisha adds three more factors: undisputed borders, absence of transnational armed groups, and broad domestic support for pursuing neutrality. Andisha examines four cases in considerable detail: Switzerland became a success (after the 1815 Concert of Vienna, when Swiss ambitions gained international recognition), Austria likewise (domestic support after World War II eventually gained international acceptance), while Laos was a failure (external support, but for divergent reasons: lack of domestic consensus as well as capabilities). Andisha moves on to examine the history of Afghanistan's neutrality, which he sees as always contingent and adaptable, and a continuation of the country's historical buffer status more than a principled commitment to permanent neutrality. Andisha finds that Afghanistan fails to meet most of the conditions for permanent neutrality yet believes that a regional treaty of peace and non-aggression is essential for Afghanistan and its neighborhood. The Taliban took power after the book was completed, and an update of the analysis would have been of interest. The Swiss and Austrian case studies show that it took them years of targeted diplomacy to gain international support for pursuing neutrality, yet the conclusions fail to fully recognize when and how the conditions defined are manipulable. Praise for a good book on a topic that is rarely addressed, yet hugely important!