While Hesiod identified Cyprus as the first home of the goddess Aphrodite, the island has been inhabited by many who are not lovers. Already a bone of contention between ancient Greeks and Persians, later Venetians and Ottomans, Cyprus has maintained a strategic significance in the struggle between East and West, and therefore has attracted the attention of modern powers, such as Britain, the United States, and, of course, Greece and Turkey.
Mallinson, a former British diplomat now teaching history at a Greek university, has written a monograph lamenting the partition of Cyprus as a largely unjust and cynical machination of great power politics. At the same time, he acknowledges that the island is populated by two ethno-religious communities hardly in love with each other—Greeks and Turks—but then proceeds to ignore his own findings.
In an era where nationalism and religion still play an important role in international politics, it is foolhardy to assign blame simply to outsiders who have sought to dominate the isle. For example, the author suggests that Cyprus should be treated in a post-nationalist "European spirit," allowing for a reunification that obfuscates the ethno-religious differences. While the jury is still out on the success of the European project, ignoring the political potency of these factors leads to a shallow understanding of politics everywhere, including Cyprus.
The disdain and aggressive tone throughout the monograph toward the realpolitik paradigm does not befit an academic work. Similarly, the contempt for social science theory is extremely problematic. The preaching tone, the simplistic insistence on legality in the international system (despite the fact that use of force is allowed by that system), an adoration of such a morally bankrupt institution as the U.N., and naive idealism turns the work into a polemical tirade rather than a respectable, intellectual exercise.
The author makes a far-reaching claim that partitions in international relations are ineffective and immoral. This particular crusade against partitions, advocating tacitly multi-ethnic states, lacks intellectual rigor and depth. The author could have marshaled better arguments had he read the rich literature on partitions.