Monday, July 23, 2007

A New Scenario Analysis Technique...and Palestine

I have frequently advocated scenario analysis on this blog and elsewhere (e.g., ISA 2007) as a useful technique for minimizing bias when thinking about the future. (Here I am concerned with the future of global affairs, though the technique would work equally well for personal life or any other problem where one wants to understand how a complex and uncertain future is likely to unfold.)

In scenario analysis, one typically constructs a "landscape," if you will accept that term, that constitutes all future possibilities. This landscape is formed by a set of axes, typically two. (More than two increases accuracy but at the cost of exponentially rising analytical and graphical difficulty.) For example, I used the landscape at the right in my previous analysis of the future of Palestine. The problem is that graphing in this way implies that one must select one of the four scenarios. What then does one do in the quite possible situation of events being in equilibrium, with no tendency to move toward any of the scenarios? This graphical technique leaves one with no place to position events that are "neutral" in the sense of not favoring any of the four scenarios depicted. Thus, a method employed to eliminate the bias of falling in love with the hypothesis you favor has at the same time introduced a new bias - that the only possibilities are going toward one of the scenarios.

A small enhancement to the standard methodology would be to distinguish the area at the center (labeled "Equilibrium") to imply that in fact there are not four but five scenarios. The Equilibrium Scenario says that a balance exists. Although any individual event may be placed anywhere on the landscape (i.e., may be interpreted as indicating movement in the direction of any scenario), one must keep in mind the possibility that events may occur primarily in the center. For a foreign policy analyst, this has considerable significance - suggesting that things are moving along quite moderately. Thus, the blue circle can, somewhat simplistically, be viewed as the "no crisis" zone: as long as behavior in the political system occurs in the equilibrium zone, life seems to be happening normally, with no fundamental changes on the horizon.

In contrast, what if all the events occur outside the region of equilibrium, as in the graph below showing key events in the evolution of Palestinian since the historic January 2006 Hamas electoral victory? There is of course no boundary to the region of equilibrium, but to the degree that you judge this graphic to be accurate, the message is clear.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Palestine Political Update: Under Israeli Siege

In a recent series of posts, I presented a scenario analysis for the future of Palestine. The graphic to the right summarizes some key events in Palestine from Hamas' historic 2006 election victory until the spring fighting between Hamas and Fatah split Palestine. Events have been moving so quickly that in the few weeks since then, it has already become possible to begin assessing developments. Recent events suggest further movement toward either the "Clash of Civilizations" or "Persian Empire" scenarios.
Since Hamas took control of Gaza, the following events have occurred in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute:

  • Israel has moved forward on new illegal settlements in the West Bank.

  • large numbers of Palestinian local and parliamentary officials have been arrested by Israel and jailed—so far without trial (39 of 74 Hamas representatives in the Palestinian parliament elected last January).

  • 0.025% of Palestinians jailed in Israel (before the recent round of arrests) were released.

  • Abbas declared a 30-day emergency government on June 15.

  • On June 27 and July 1 and July 7 Israel launched attacks on Gaza, sometimes with tanks and helicopter gunships.

  • On July 11 Abbas convened parliament (without the jailed legislators being able to attend) and Hamas boycotted, leaving Abbas to govern by emergency cabinet.

  • A Palestinian fired at an Israeli checkpoint in Palestinian territory, after which Israeli soldiers fired "randomly" at Palestinians lined up to cross the border, according to a press report.

  • On July 14 Abbas appointed a new government, which Hamas rejected.

  • Israel violently took control over the defunct Gaza airport.

If Palestinian-Israeli events are analyzed in terms of the degree of justice and the degree of Palestinian unification, as originally done in the Palestinian Futures series in this blog, the political scene appears to be moving distinctly away from justice and away from unification, judging from these events. The graphic below updates the evidence with the key events up to mid-July.

Events are of course only one type of evidence of where things stand. Trends, among which the economic warfare by Israel against Gaza and the Israeli refusal to allow stranded Palestinians to return to Gaza, are more significant but harder to spot; there are undoubtedly many more now beneath the surface. Even more difficult to perceive as they unfold are the underlying dynamics, e.g., changes in popular attitudes or international realignments. We shall see if the initial impression given by events is borne out as other evidence becomes visible.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Preventive War is Aggression

The concept of "preventive" war is nonsense. All wars are preventive. Some wars are designed to prevent an enemy from taking control. Others are designed to prevent an enemy from remaining dominant. More than a few are designed distract and prevent the population from thinking…and then removing from power an incompetent leader. Some wars are designed to prevent the population from realizing that the leader has been carrying out a fraudulent and failing foreign policy. An attack on Iran at this time would certainly come under that heading. Some wars are designed to prevent a subject population from achieving independence. Others are designed to prevent an emerging power from achieving its "place in the sun." An attack on Iran would come under that heading as well. Some wars are designed to prevent things that no one was trying to achieve in the first place. Many are designed in part to prevent loss of face. Some are designed to prevent the loss of profit.

War is war, and those who start wars are criminals who should be held responsible. Those who make war against civilians in a policy of collective punishment are also criminals. That is why Americans reacted with such anger at 9/11: 3,000 cases of immoral "collateral damage" blocked any rational consideration of al Qua’ida’s goals (e.g., removal of U.S. troops from Saudi Arabia, which soon thereafter occurred, and just treatment of Palestinians). Those who incite war or arm both sides to prolong war or provide weapons specifically designed for slaughtering civilians are also criminals. It really does not matter how many cute little adjectives you put in front of war: starting a war is immoral, criminal behavior. It is simply wrong.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Wars of Aggression by Any Other Name

For centuries human civilization has been struggling to shift from rule-by-force ("law of the jungle") to rule by law. Those with power are always of course tempted to use it. But once the rule of law is overthrown—no matter how good the excuse--it is gone, and the door is open for everyone to follow the law of the jungle. The more the law of the jungle is followed, the more difficult it becomes for others to avoid responding in kind, creating a vicious cycle undermining civilization.

If anyone can be jailed without regard to legal safeguards, then everyone becomes a potential victim. If any country gains the right to launch "preemptive" or "preventive" wars, then every country has justification for attacking its neighbors at will...which means the neighbors, in self-defense, can only attack first. "Preventive" war means inevitable and permanent war. Rule by force and legitimization of preventive war together guarantee endless violence: precisely the outcome they are presumably designed to avoid.

If you have the right to attack me even when I am doing nothing to threaten you and indeed am not even capable of it—just because I might someday decide to seek the capability to do so and might someday still later decide to use that capability, then I clearly have no choice but to exert every effort to destroy you first. Indeed, I need to destroy you even if you have no intention of actually implementing a preventive war policy—simply because you believe preventive war to be acceptable! Who knows when you might change your mind? That is why "law of the jungle" and "civilization" are considered opposites.

Civilized societies are those that renounce the right to engage in preventive or preemptive wars. Civilized societies accept a set of constraints to live by because in compensation for the costs come benefits. Giving criminals legal safeguards means those safeguards will be there to protect you in case you are mistakenly arrested: the point is not to be nice to criminals but to differentiate between criminals and the innocent, as well as to match the punishment to the crime. Without the safeguards, who will ever know your arrest was a mistake?

One may of course advocate preventive war as an exception, "just this once," but who is to judge when to allow the arbitrary exception? Who is to say how this exception differs from all the cases of perceived insecurity elsewhere?

  • India and Pakistan have fought more wars since the sub-continent’s independence from Britain than most of us can count and nearly started the world’s first nuclear war five years ago. Who are we to say that the history of South Asia does not constitute an "exception" justifying preemptive aggression by either India or Pakistan?

  • Members of the Israeli elite have repeatedly called for a preemptive strike on non-nuclear Iran. Who are we to say that Israeli threats do not constitute an "exception" that would justify an Iranian "preemptive strike" in self-defense?

  • The U.S. has been threatening "regime change" in Iran and Syria for several years. Who are we to say that does not constitute "an exception" that would justify some sort of Iranian or Syrian asymmetric preventive strike against the U.S.?

I only see two answers:

1) declare "preventive war" illegitimate (akin to abolishing capital punishment), or

2) establish an international body (let’s call it a "united nations") with the authority to identify exceptions where preventive war is allowed (akin to the court system).

Preventive War is Addictive. Absent these safeguards, how could those with power not be tempted? Sharks exist, and even though more people are killed by bees than sharks, we are still afraid of sharks. So, shall we declare "preventive war" against sharks, to prevent the odd attack? After preventive war against the top of the food chain, who knows what changes will occur lower down, leading to new threats? And what about the bottom? After all, jellyfish can kill as fast as sharks – and the tiniest ones, which happen to be the most deadly, are much harder to see. So let’s put security first and declare preventive war against the whole food chain…Despite the illogical nature of preventive war, once deemed a morally acceptable principle, the temptation to use it for ever more distant and tenuous threats becomes hard to resist.

Preventive War as the "Solution" to All Problems. Therein lies the second problem with preventive war: one easily becomes tempted not only to view it as the solution to military threats but as the solution to other classes of difficulty. This tendency ("the law of the hammer") is especially the case for countries which are militarily supreme but quite inferior in other ways.
  • The repeated Israeli invasions of Lebanon over the last 30 years are an example. Each invasion was justified as an attempt to eliminate anti-Israeli violence, but each in fact exacerbated the conditions that caused it--anger at Israeli repression of Palestinians and the weakness of Lebanon’s government.

  • The establishment of huge, seemingly permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq and efforts at regime change against Iran that serve to establish U.S. control over oil those two countries would be only to happy to sell us are another example.

The law of the hammer: whether you want to drive a nail, saw a board, or open a window, if a hammer is the only tool you have, USE IT!

Preventive War Decreases Security. The third problem with preventive war is that all other governments will of course figure this out in a New York minute and conclude that they must come up with a way to address this new military threat. Once they realize that the leading military power will actually attack to compel their obedience, they will accelerate their own military development. The non-nuclear will consider becoming nuclear, and those that cannot will take a long look at the much cheaper biological or chemical alternatives. Failing that, they will search for creative ways of competing militarily. In short, adoption by a military power of a policy of preventive war or acceptance by the international system of preventive war as a legitimate foreign policy principle will stimulate the evolution of military strategy by the weak. It will end up decreasing our security.

The counterargument is that given a huge preponderance of military force, a superpower may be able to compel obedience from the world. This counterargument fails because power comes in many forms. A modern industrial power needs numerous things, many of which cannot be ensured by military force. American military supremacy cannot prevent other countries from gaining access to technology, cannot ensure against terrorism, cannot prevent cyber-warfare. In the words of Abdel Bari Atwan, Editor-in-Chief of the London newspaper Al-Quds al-Arabi,

"The Oft-repeated Bush mantra that he is 'destroying the infrastructure of terrorism' is simply untrue when it comes to al Qaeda. It is not at all possible to carpet-bomnb al Qaeda's positions, or attack its soldiers, who develop their military skills and receive their instructions by sitting in fron of a PC and connecting to the Internet.
Security solutions alone will not eliminate al Qaeda because the success and survival of the network does not depend on individuals or even groups....The only way forward that I can see is for the US to acknowledge that armed action does not emanate from a void. Al Qaeda's is not mindless violence. It is military aggression with a set of objectives, and survives on a diet of popular sympathy, cover and human ammunition.
Support for groups like al Qaeda is born of political, social and economic circumstances that people find unacceptable."--The Secret History of al Qaeda, pp. 234-235

Indeed, precisely because of its advanced technology, the U.S. is particularly vulnerable to cyber-warfare, which can be carried out at negligible cost to the aggressor. The day is long past when a string of border forts can ensure peace in the land.

Preventive War Provokes Hostility. The fourth problem with preventive war is that the more a military power uses it, the greater the pressure on the part of everyone else to band together for survival. Bitter enemies will declare a truce. The response of the warlike Afghan clans to the Soviet invasion and the U.S.-Soviet alliance against Hitler are classic examples.

The Results of Preventive War are Unpredictable. Finally, preventive war presents a very subtle problem: the impact of preventive ware is unforeseeable because the international political system is a complex adaptive system (as is the natural food chain). Remove sharks or grizzlies and an incalculable cascade of changes flows throughout the whole system. Everything else adapts. The result may be much worse than the problem. War is not surgery, cutting out a bad part; war changes everything. When you are on top and change everything, the chances are you will end up worse off. The obvious example is the transformation of Iraq from a secular dictatorship into an out-of-control training ground for al Qua’ida and the source of a wave of messianic fundamentalism that is threatening the whole Mideast. The same criticism of course applies to war in general, but frequently war is the tool of a dissatisfied power demanding a better deal, and such an actor may at least hope that the gamble of war will provide hope of improvement in its situation. One's odds of making progress when one is already on top seem rather smaller.

When terrorists claim the right to kill indiscriminately is precisely when we should most strenuously defend the right to trial. When a global movement tries to foment religious or cultural war is precisely when we should most diligently strengthen the bonds of cross-cultural unity. When countries claim the right to launch "preventive" wars of aggression is precisely when we should most enthusiastically defend international law. The time when our liberties are under attack is precisely the time to strive to the utmost to protect those liberties—not just to protect ourselves but to protect the concept of liberty. It’s not the law of the jungle that protects liberty – it’s rules.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Palestinian Futures (Part IV of IV)

Complexity: Resolving Conflict in an Adaptive System

No "road" to the future exists, waiting to be discovered. First, it's not a road but a network: forward looks just like sideways...or backward. It goes a bit, then curves around out-of-sight, reaches an intersection with three unmarked paths. Second, it does not "exist:" it unfolds as you step in response to how you step and how everyone else steps, as well. Welcome to the world of complexity.

But fear not! These comments contain much implied information of value.
  • To say that there is no "road" to the future cautions us not to put too much faith in "roadmaps," perhaps to stress instead guiding principles.

  • To say that the future "does not exist" implies that many possibilities do exist.
  • To say that the future unfolds in response to how actors behave implies that coordination may enhance the efficacy of our actions.

  • And the whole description implies the existence of certain constraints, which may have more impact on our behavior than any purported "true nature" that humans from time to time impute to each other. And that implies that we might be better off focusing on how to work within those constraints rather than rushing to classify people into "good" and "bad," and then creating yet another constraint by refusing to work with the "bad."
Beyond the scenarios for examining the future of Palestine presented in Parts I and II of this series and the dynamics presented in Part III lies a still more powerful lens for viewing reality: complexity theory. Note the word "theory." This is no science, yet, certainly not as applied to world politics, and its methods remain weak, but its concepts contain important messages for designing policies that will work.

Perhaps the most basic lesson of complexity theory for future analysis is that a complex system is made up of interdependent, adaptive parts. Bluntly stated, no one is in control. All components in a system (in this case, the countries and political forces involved in the Palestinian-Israeli dispute) affect each other: all adapt in response to the behavior of the others. Israel’s overwhelming preponderance of military and economic force still leaves it constrained by the rest of the system. Even superpower America is contrained by the broader system in which it operates. Therefore, it is possible for the system to evolve in a direction that no one desires, a direction harmful to all.

It follows that a negative trend is not necessarily the fault or the goal of any particular actor. Blame should be assigned and intent attributed with caution. Despite the tendency to engage in arms races, it is not clear that anyone actually advocates in advance having an arms race. Despite the apparent existence of numerous leaders with little sense of morality and the repeated evidence of indifference to the callously-termed "collateral damage," it is not clear that very many leaders actually prefer to slaughter innocent women and children. If we had a better understanding of how systemic constraints push us into situations with no appealing alternatives, then we might do a better job of evading them.

"Clash of Civilizations" is a case in point. It is not clear that any leader in the 1940’s planned or hoped for a fight to the death between the Arab residents of Palestine and the European Jewish immigrants. Innumerable factors pushed the two sides to the circumstances that exist today: historical inequities, scarcity of land, insecurity, lack of imagination on the part of leaders, the tendency of some to overreact to each sin committed by the opponent, provoking a spiral of rising resentment and revenge. Analysis of how our best intentions go awry when confronted by the subtle constraints imposed by complex systems would have great potential for revealing choices never made and focus attention on something more important than the blame game.

An unfortunate additional product of this process is that as the system evolves, new actors may arise or old actors may adapt and become addicted to the emerging circumstances, no matter how negative they may be. In his study of the Colombian civil war (Systems of Violence), Richani called this the "comfortable impasse:" a war that no one can win but to which the opponents have become adjusted and from which they are increasingly benefiting to the point that they lose the desire to end it. Politicians exploit the "threat" to gain power; generals exploit the "threat" to gain larger budgets; insurgents exploit their exploits in silopsistic violence [Ian S. Lustick, "Terrorism in the Arab-Israeli Conflict: Targets and Audiences," in Terrorism in Context, MarthaCrenshaw (ed.), (University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 1995) pp. 514-552.], i.e., violence not to defeat the opponent but to impress one’s colleagues. The rise of actors addicted to violence can impose severe new constraints on the ability of the original contestants to control their own fate.

Scenario analysis integrated with system dynamics and complexity theory provides three distinct perspectives of increasing analytical accuracy for analyzing the future. Applying this methodology to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict suggests that the range of realistic options—options whose logic can easily be spelled out—is significantly broader than commonly realized. This methodology also underscores the highly tenuous nature of assumptions about the future of this conflict, where delays, small but possibly growing feedbacks, potential tipping points, and system constraints are a minefield for policymakers.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Palestinian Futures (Part III)

Analysis of the future of Palestine suggests that, despite the patterns of the past that have now lasted more than half a century, a brighter future as well as disaster remain possible. Part I laid out four scenarios; Part II introduced the method of scenario evolution. Part III bores beneath the surface of events to examine causality, illustrating how delays and tipping points can lead to failure.

Dynamics: The Second Lens

Scenario analysis concentrates on events, which are easily seen but represent the least detailed of three distinct perspectives on reality. The underlying causal dynamics constitute a "second lens," with more powerful magnification. The more we concentrate on the underlying dynamics that produce the scenarios rather than the events that describe them, the more powerful scenario analysis becomes. (Details are in my "Future Analysis" paper presented at the 2007 International Studies Association Convention.) Focusing on dynamics begins to reveal how things work, how distinct causes interact, where tipping points can be anticipated, and the impact of delays.

Delays can be expected to have significant impact on "Zion Abandoned" because movement toward such a fundamental shift in Israeli attitudes will require many small, careful steps in the direction of mutual trust. A "cooperative cycle" of conciliatory move by Side A being met by a conciliatory response by Side B, leading again to a positive step by Side A...must develop.
Although such a conciliatory cycle is likely to create a positive sum (win-win) situation, in the real world, even given good will on both sides, it will be difficult to achieve because delays will be almost unavoidable, and delays open the door to all manner of problems. Opportunities will abound for extremists who wish to exploit chaos and fear for personal gain or see the world in terms of good and evil to sabotage every step. One side will make a conciliatory move, and the other will hesitate, opening the door for extremists of various stripes who believe in using force to achieve their goals and see the world in simplistic terms of good and evil(either fundamentalists with a religious mission or militarists). And aside from zealots, equally serious interference can come from careerists who profit from arms sales or exploit the threat of war or terrorism to win elections. Moreover, any chance incident can be misinterpreted as a negative signal by the other side, negating the previous conciliatory move. Even if the interference of extremists or careerists is avoided, when delays occur or when the two sides move at different tempos, confusion about the other side’s intentions becomes difficult to avoid, everyone falls back on "playing it safe," and the momentum toward peace evaporates. These complications resulting from delay are one of the main reasons why "Zion Abandoned" is a long shot.

Tipping Points
Focusing on dynamics naturally leads to asking if a tipping point might occur. Once one accepts the proposition that multiple dynamics exert force simultaneously in different directions, it logically follows that at any given moment one dynamic may dominate but that dominance may shift to another. In brief, one can no longer make the common assumption that if a trend is underway today, it will continue tomorrow. It is not too hard to image the rapid reversal of a trend if one becomes aware of an opposite force. But system dynamics goes beyond that, calling attention to undermining feedbacks – i.e., not just opposing forces but opposing forces that are a function of the dominant force so they increase automatically as the dominant force increases. Foreign forces intervening in a civil war may at first turn the tide of battle but, as their visibility in the country rises, provoke a nationalist reaction against their presence

Both "Zion Abandoned" and "Two-State Solution" are stories about the slow emergence of mutual trust. Each scenario is vulnerable to a sudden tipping point that could cut it short, should violence erupt.

"Persian Empire" also contains a tipping point related to internal Iranian politics and generational change. As post-Khomenei and post-Iran-Iraq War Iranians reach maturity, ceteris parabis, their natural inclination will likely be to favor a relaxation of international tensions, broadening of civil liberties, and democracy. Foreign threats to Iran will enable the regime to rally most Iranians around the flag, but should those threats dissipate, domestic demands for liberty, economic growth, and democracy might well undercut domestic "Persian Empire" advocates. This, in turn, could lead to a tipping point that would shift events from an incipient "Persian Empire" scenario to "Two-State Solution," with Iran as mediator rather than Palestinian ally. The key to this argument is recognition that the desire for democracy among Iranian youth is a tendency that already exists as an Iranian political force, albeit subordinate to the currently dominant tendency of enhancing Iran’s role as a backer of Palestinian liberation. Therefore, although occurrence of the tipping point that would give Iranian proponents of democracy/civil liberties control of their government would be a major change in Mideast affairs, all it would require is a change in the relative power of two forces that are already in conflict

Even this brief look at the causal dynamics impacting the evolution of events makes the point that the political situation is far from equilibrium, like a steep mountain slope after a heavy snow. But the political slopes fall away in all directions; a delicate hand may nudge events in any of several directions and create a future that once seemed all but impossible.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Palestinian Futures (Part II)

In Part I, four scenarios depicting possible futures for Palestine were laid out, based on two critical axes: the degree of justice in Palestine and the degree of Palestinian unity. These scenarios suggest that a wide range of alternative futures is possible in Palestine.

The typical next step in scenario analysis of listing milestones to indicate the events that would tend to confirm each of the scenarios follows, after which a new concept in scenario analysis--evolution--will be introduced.


Milestones signal which scenarios are becoming increasingly likely. A few of the milestones that could be expected if events moved in the direction of each of the four scenarios laid out in Part I are presented below. The milestones are listed roughly in the order they might logically be expected to occur.

Clash of Civilizations
  • Israel develops one policy toward the West Bank under Fatah and another toward Gaza under Hamas.
  • Hamas banned from the next Palestinian election.

Persian Empire
  • Palestinians in Lebanon attack Israel.
  • Palestine independence is recognized by Iran, Syria, and Iraq.
  • Palestinians in Lebanon coordinate anti-Israeli policy with Hezballah.
  • Military coup takes control of Israel in the name of "national security.
  • As in 1982, Israel again invades Lebanon to "remove the Palestinian threat."
  • Palestinians move from Lebanon to Jordan.
  • Radicals overthrow government of Jordan.
  • Israel invades Jordan.

Zion Abandoned.

  • Israeli peace movement wins national election.
  • Israeli settlers begin voluntarily leaving the West Bank.
  • Israel’s security wall imprisoning the West Bank is removed.
  • Israel accepts and implements U.N. resolution 242.
  • Israel offers true "right of return."
  • Israel gives up nuclear weapons and signs the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.
Two-State Solution.
  • Israel accepts an equitable water-sharing agreement with Palestine.
  • Israel’s security wall on Palestinian territory is moved to Israeli territory.
  • Jerusalem is divided.
  • Israel allows Palestinian government a military force sufficient to control its own territory.
  • Palestinian forces start to man border posts with Jordan and Egypt.
  • Israel and Palestine agree on a "right of return" in principle with financial settlements to settle Palestinian claims in practice.
Scenario Evolution.
Creating scenarios, which are after all imaginary stories highly unlikely to match the reality that will actually unfold, is just the beginning of creating a scenario analysis that will have any long-term value. If the scenarios are thought of as broad guidelines into the future, then plotting past events on the scenario grid in temporal sequence can both hint at where things are moving and, as new events are added, indicate when things take a turn. This technique can be expanded by including anticipated events that would confirm movement in the direction of each of the scenarios. The basic idea is to place dated events at points on the grid where they seem to fit, to see if the sequence of events suggests any clear trends.

The seminal 2006 Hamas electoral victory might be considered to fit fairly close to the "just" end of the Justice Axis, since the election is generally considered to have been relatively open, and somewhat closer to the "unified" end of the Unity Axis than to the "disunified" end, because, despite clear tensions, both Hamas and Fatah participated in the electoral system.

The rapid Israeli response of effectively declaring economic warfare on Hamas may not cause one to alter the position on the Unity Axis since it was an Israeli act but moves the situation dramatically toward the "unjust" end of the Justice Axis.

The outbreak of street battles between Hamas and Fatah merits positioning close to both the "unjust" and "disunified" extremes.

Finally, the emergence of Hamas control of Gaza and Fatah control of the West Bank is clearly near the "disunified" extreme, but its position on the Justice Axis seems debatable. One could argue that two opposing Palestinian governing bodies enable more just government because they will be under the spotlight and competing to show which side can do a better job. The answer is unclear, so marking this event with an ellipse is more appropriate than a dot. Size and shape suggest the nature of the uncertainty. The tool has no mathematical precision; the point is simply to provide a quick overview – like a roadmap but, unfortunately, one lacking a scale of distance.

Even such a brief scenario analysis suggests a range of alternatives much broader than that typically envisioned. If more than two axes were used, and more attention were paid to long-term evolution and possible tipping points that could rapidly propel events in a new direction, then the range of possible alternatives would be broader still. The framework laid out here facilitates conducting such an exercise. Nevertheless, it constitutes but the first step, representing a view of reality that is at the lowest level of magnification. Higher levels of magnification--using system dynamics and complexity theory--will be explored in subsequent posts on Palestinian Futures.