This book is about understanding how former combatants come home after war, and how their political lives are refracted by the war and the experience of coming home itself. In particular, it captures the political mobilization among former combatants as they come home from three very different types of war: civil war (Colombia), war of independence (Namibia), and interstate war (United States involvement in the Vietnam War). The book provides a much-needed long-term perspective on peace. It also demonstrates the artificial division between literatures across the Global North and Global South, and demonstrates how these literatures speak to each other just as the three cases speak to each other. The novel use of interviews to document life histories and the inside perspective they provide also give a unique insight into the former combatants’ own perspectives on the process of coming home and their sense of political voice. This book is not about peacebuilding in the sense of interventions. Rather, it examines peace as a process through studying the lived experiences of individuals, displaying the dynamics of political mobilization after disarmament across time in the lives of fifty former combatants. The book demonstrates how the process of coming home shapes their political commitment and identity, and how the legacy of war is a powerful reminder in the lives of these former combatants long after the end of the war.
What does it signify to these former combatants to be a “veteran”? How is it filled with meaning and how is it understood politically? This chapter shows how people's experience as former combatants is turned into a veteran identity; the way that veteran identity is formulated contains an impetus for political action. The chapter goes on to examine how this identity is constructed by the former combatants themselves. This is central to capturing an insider's perspective of how these former combatants understand and depict their own political
This chapter turns to the political activity the former combatants have engaged in after war. Their political mobilization has waxed and waned over the years, and their veteran identity as well as veteran networks play a role in this dynamic. As such, the chapter tries to display how former combatants connect their experience of war, and of coming home, to their subsequent political mobilization. The chapter shows how experiences covered in the earlier chapters – such as coming home, questions of identity, relationship with the state, and
the First World War when the meaning-making surrounding that conflict was hugely important for understanding the rise of Nazism (Diehl 1993 , p. 26). Further back, another example of a “veteran” identity which was infused with meaning, and which changed over time, is seen in the case of the American War of Independence. Resch's work demonstrates how malleable the legacy of, and the treatment by society of, revolutionary war veterans can be. These men were romanticized in the early 1800s in part to help recruit more combatants for the war with
transform and are recreated across a lifetime, and in this sense they are not stable entities. Yet these networks manage to reproduce themselves, and this chapter shows how this reproduction and recreation happens. The chapter is not about the networks in and of themselves, but the experience of these networks from the viewpoint of the individual former combatants. In the previous chapter we saw how veteran identity retained a similar strength and there were shared connotations across the groups of former combatants. Before we consider their paths of
the ensuing chapters. Hence, in this book “coming home” refers not only to the immediate process following war but also this drawn-out process of continually reinterpreting these experiences throughout their lives. In Chapter 3, “‘Veteran’ as a political identity”, it became clear how important the veteran identity was to the former combatants who participated in this study. Across all cases, this identity has a clear salience and is something they feel has defined large parts of their lives. Some of the traits stressed when they try to depict
of their skills and experience, and asserted the men's status as key members of civil defence. Moreover, this tended to be an inclusive veteran identity, open to the non-combatant soldiers of the base (33.5 per cent of the army by mid-1918) as well as the front-line troops. 53 In his work on the British Legion, Niall Barr argued that the term ‘ex-service’ could be extended to anyone in uniform (even women), but in practice ‘distinctions of service, medals and rank were erected’. 54