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.
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.