Friday, June 1, 2007

Regime Behavior and Instability

I have commented before on the fundamental importance of how one defines “stability” in international relations. Given the many current world problems directly tied to violent instability and violent efforts to eliminate it (for example), a brief focus on the often-overlooked ways in which instability may be provoked seems worthwhile.

The diagram pictures some causal relationships between state policy and tension in the populace, based on the following hypothesis:

Stability is a function of tension.

The hypothesis implies the intuitive: if social tension rises, so will instability. Other causes are of course possible, but the underlying psychological state of the populace is one that is all too often overlooked. The diagram posits four causal loops, each of which may increases tension:

1) Foreign aid may induce the repression of minority rights (by giving the regime the confidence to turn its back on the minorities);

2) Civil rights may be repressed;

3) Arms imported by the regime may be used against the people.

A couple points are worth making about this simple diagram. First, reality is of course more complex. There may be loops that mitigate violence, connections directly from one loop to another, etc. But this diagram is already complicated enough – with three separate ways that tension might be raised, which leads to the second point. One might well implement a policy that successfully mitigated one of these causal pathways and not even notice an impact on social tension because the other loops were still provoking so much of a rise in tension and resulting instability. For success, policies will need to be developed that address each causal loop that is operating in the given situation.

Does anyone see a connection between these ideas and any of the world’s current violence?

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