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Mason, Whit

Mason, Whit

PERSONAL:

Male.

CAREER:

Journalist, writer, speechwriter. International Crisis Group, Pristina, Kosovo, 2001; Uited Nations Mission in Kosovo, speechwriter and public affairs advisor, 2002-04; Internews Network Azerbaijan, chief of party, 2004—.

WRITINGS:

(With Iain King) Peace at Any Price: How the World Failed Kosovo, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 2006.

Contributor to periodicals, including the International Herald Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Newsday, Washington Monthly, Barron's, South China Morning Post, Australian, Oregonian, World Policy Journal and Asiaweek.

SIDELIGHTS:

Whit Mason is a journalist who spent several years as speechwriter and public affairs advisor for the United Nations (UN) Mission in Kosovo. He is the author, with Iain King, who was the head of planning for the UN mission in Kosovo in 2003, of Peace at Any Price: How the World Failed Kosovo. Kosovo is a province of Serbia and has been under United Nations administration following the 1999 NATO air strikes that drove Serbian forces out of the province. Following these strikes, the United Nations Security Council established an interim civilian administration to oversee the area's rebuilding. Known as the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), it's efforts are bolstered with the help of a local provisional government and security supplied by NATO. This province has been involved in a longtime dispute between the Serbian government (formerly the nation of Yugoslavia) and the ethnic Albanians who make up most of Kosovo's population.

In their book, Mason and King provide a firsthand look at Kosovo several years after the 1999 NATO air strikes. Previous to these strikes, places such as Bosnia and Croatia suffered tremendously as ethnic violence and bloodshed spread throughout the region. For many in Europe and elsewhere, Kosovo appears to represent the beginning of a new era of international effort to solve the ethnic problems. However, as the authors point out in their book, the international efforts have had their setbacks.

Despite the UN mission to rebuild Kosovo, protect human rights, and create a democracy, Kosovo, according to Mason and King, remains an area with considerable ethnic strife and some violence with the potential for matters to get far worse. "Picking up this book one might be tempted to splutter in amazement at its subtitle," wrote a contributor to the Economist. "How the world failed Kosovo?" John R. Schindler, writing in the Naval War College Review, noted: "Peace at Any Price poses that difficult question and provides a richly disturbing series of answers that should be of interest to anyone concerned with the ability of Western governments and organizations to bring stability to failed states, even with overwhelming military force at their disposal."

In their book, the authors explore the reasons why, in their opinion, the UN mission has failed and identify some of the most notable mistakes made by both the UN and NATO. They also outline the difficult challenges that are common to international interventions in unstable areas of the world. They provide a thorough review of the administration of Kosovo by the UN, focusing on areas such as law and order, security, and political developments. They also examine the region's economy and the UN's ability to win the "hearts and minds" of people in the region.

They examine the roots of ongoing problems and describe a series of violent incidents based on revenge for acts committed before NATO's and the UN's intervention. Finally, they examine the gap between expectations and reality on the ground where little progress has been made in the advancement of democracy in Kosovo or in resolving ethnic tensions and disputes.

Ultimately, the authors are disappointed with the UN administration in Kosovo. Although they praise the UN for its logistical efforts in organizing elections and helping establish various institutions, they note that efforts to transform the ongoing conflict through changes in ideology and increased understanding of ethnic differences have largely failed.

A contributor to the Economist wrote that "despite its rather sensationalist title, [the authors] have produced an excellent and timely book," adding later in the same review: "What is refreshing are their frank judgments." Referring to Peace at Any Price as a "compact but thorough book," International Journal contributor Oisin Tansey also wrote in the same review that the authors provide "a comprehensive, illuminating, and often scathing account of the UN's efforts to date."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Economist, September 23, 2006, "Time for a Reckoning; Kosovo," p. 95.

Foreign Affairs, May-June, 2007, Robert Levgold, review of Peace at Any Price: How the World Failed Kosovo, p. 153.

International Journal, summer, 2007, Oisin Tansey, review of Peace at Any Price, p. 717.

Journal of Peace Research, May, 2007, Thomas Jackson, review of Peace at Any Price, p. 369.

Naval War College Review, summer, 2007, John R. Schindler, review of Peace at Any Price, p. 138.

Reference & Research Book News, February, 2007, review of Peace at Any Price.

ONLINE

Stanhope Centre for Communication Policy and Research Web site,http://www.stanhopecentre.org/ (February 6, 2008), profile of author.

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