ISBN: 9781452244327 (paperback)
Patrick M Regan
University of Notre Dame
Karl DeRouen has written a concise primer on our contemporary understanding of civil wars and their dynamics. The book is organized around a summary of the key components of civil wars, ranging from the causes to the role of external actors and the methods of termination. In many ways it is a solid text for use in an undergraduate course and in some ways an updating and extension of the book by Marie Olson Lounsbery and Frederic S Pearson from 2009. Things to like include the systematic treatment, the organization that allows the reader to work through sequentially or to jump around to specific areas of interest, and the good bibliography. As far as the topics are concerned, the author seems to have covered the bases. To think about what I would prefer to be different you have to transport yourself from a potential student to a scholar. What I miss is often depth, which in turn generates an inclination to contest the author’s own interpretation. This might make a great teaching tool but as an informed reader I want him to go further. DeRouen also does what many others do, he separates out the topic of terrorism as if it is distinct from civil wars. Sometimes – but certainly not always – it might be better placed as a tactic used by rebels. In the end, DeRouen does a wonderful job of providing the teacher-scholar with a treatment of the state of knowledge about civil wars that has a sequence and structure. You could organize a course around this book and it would make sense to you.