Friday, December 28, 2007

Should Somaliland Become Independent?

When does a population deserve to have its desire for
independence recognized?

For one example, take a look at this article on an issue barely visible to Americans: whether the Somaliland region of Somalia should or should not become an independent state.

By Guled Ismail

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

If there is one issue that
unites Somalia’s famously quarrelsome politicians, elites and ordinary clansmen
it is the issue of Somaliland’s secession: They oppose it to a man, child and

Members of the ineffectual but secular Transitional
Federal Government (TFG) oppose Somaliland’s secession as vehemently as the most
fanatical of its Islamist enemies.

What drives this determination
to keep Somaliland into Somalia’s death embrace remains unclear.

The full text of Guled Ismail's article is well worth thinking about.

Further information on this issue from readers would be welcome...

The World Next Year?

New Year is a time to look back and forward, so maybe this is a good time to ask: “What kind of a world might we well be living in, say, by a year from now?”

By the end of the Bush Administration, we could well be faced with:
  • A third Intifada in Palestine resulting from accumulating frustrations;
  • An invigorated and probably radicalized Islamic Courts Union ruling Somalia, as a result of receiving nationalist support in reaction to the harshness of the U.S.-supported Ethiopian military attack;
  • Ethiopian-Eritrean war over both their common border and the Ogaden revolt against Ethiopia, which is being exacerbated by Ethiopian propensity to solve the issue through military force rather than accommodation with local aspirations;
  • Collapse of government in Lebanon, where Washington still appears to be counseling the regime to play hardball with Hezballah rather than allowing them the central government political influence commensurate with the size of the Shi’ite population;
  • A new explosion of violence in Iraq, resulting from a Sunni Awakening vs Shi’ite civil war or open fighting within the Shi’ite camp;
  • End of the Iraqi Kurdish cooperation with US because of US support for Turkish attacks;
  • A popular Pakistani revolt against the military, with the pro-democratic forces joining the Taliban against the US-supported military-intelligence complex that runs the Pakistani dictatorship, or a consolidation of military-intelligence control, persuading the generals that they will continue to have a free hand to continue their 20-year-long campaign of passing nuclear weapons technology around the world.

OK, anyone who can rise above obsession with one particular issue and juggle plus or minus 7 facts simultaneously can see the possibility of all these situations occurring more or less simultaneously. The question is what to do about it.

Washington’s approach seems to be military force (vis-à-vis Iraq, Somalia, Hamas); military dictatorship (vis-à-vis Pakistan, Israeli control over Palestine); and no compromise (vis-à-vis Hezballah, Hamas, Islamic Courts Union, Iran). Is this approach working or do we need a fundamentally different way of behaving toward the world?

As the U.S. continues to support military/intelligence dictatorship in Pakistan – now without even the Benazir democratic figleaf; as the US air wars in Iraq and Afghanistan accelerate explosively; as the U.S. proxy war using (primarily) Ethiopian troops in Somalia appears to be collapsing; and as Israel sabotages (e.g., via settlement expansions and economic warfare against the people of Gaza) the already thin hopes that Annapolis would lead to peace in Palestine, attacking Iran seems a step too far. This wouldn’t be what those of little faith mean by imperial overstretch, would it?

Are the risks of continuing the current approach greater or less than the risks of trying a fundamentally new policy? And what might such a policy be?

A reasonable reaction might be: “Easy for you to ask, but not so easy to answer.” Indeed, except that, judging from the political rhetoric in the U.S. today, apparently most folks find such questions too hard even to ask. And if we don’t ask, we will never get the answers.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Scenario Evolution

A practical method for studying the evolution of scenarios illustrated
with the example of violence

Scenarios as distinct alternative possible futures (A) is a useful approach, but B is much closer to the reality: it does not matter where you start; the actual course of reality as it unfolds will follow a wandering path because the scenarios are really tendencies in competition. “Which one will come true?” is almost certainly the wrong question. More fruitful questions are: “Which one are we headed toward at the moment…and why…and for how long?” Such questions, assisted by Model B’s emphasis on interaction—rather than choice--among scenarios, imply that scenarios evolve and invite consideration of the dynamics controlling that evolution. Thus, Model B focuses attention on the evolutionary process, which in reality will certainly touch on several of the theoretically “alternative” scenarios. The message of Model B is to think about the probable future scenario chain and the sequence along that chain, as well as the timing and sequence of the various steps in the chain. Where traditional scenario analysis focuses on the scenarios (the boxes), Model B refocuses attention on scenario evolution (the arrows). Such thinking also leads to issues like time slices and sequence.

Dynamics underlying scenario evolution lie at the core of this new approach to analyzing the future. Their endless complexities cry out for visual aids to simplify analysis. Returning to the slide of the Crusader-Aggressor Coalition, for example, think of this not as depicting two actors but as depicting two alternative scenarios. Now the meaning is that we anticipate the possibility of a Crusader Scenario coming true but also see the possibility of an Aggressor Scenario coming true. Moreover, we see that these two scenarios could merge to create a new scenario, combining features of each, i.e., a future characterized by expansion fueled by a coalition of ideologically-oriented “crusaders” in league with coldly calculating “aggressors.” This is a model of the actual European Crusades in the Mideast that combined Catholic extremism and desires to enhance Europe’s international trade competitiveness.

Time Slices.
Rather than vaguely defining scenarios as covering, e.g., “the next 10 years,” pay attention to the likely duration of a scenario without making the assumption that all the scenarios one defines will occur over the same timeframe. Start by assuming that the scenarios are short-term and unstable unless an alternative assumption can explicitly be justified.

Before worrying too much about the time of a scenario, consider sequence. Does a Crusader Scenario logically lead to a Violence Scenario? Identify logical chains of scenario evolution before worrying about the likely duration of each scenario. Timing is important but highly dependent on details and thus unknowable when thinking about the future. We should, however, be able to specify theoretically logical evolutionary paths, and to the extent that we do this, we will have valuable warnings.

True Believers: A Theoretical Example.
Returning to the dynamics around others’ perceptions of True Believers, it was hypothesized that the faith (ideological commitment) of even a peaceful true believer would make outsiders uneasy, provoking them to take actions that either would in fact be aggressive or would be viewed by the true believer as aggressive. Thus, we might anticipate that even the benignly-intentioned Idealist might become frightened and start a defensive arms build-up. The Idealist might also form a new alliance. Each move could be seen by the Peaceful True Believer as a threat, inducing the Peaceful True Believer to evolve into a Militant True Believer and subsequently form a counteralliance with an Aggressor.

It is easy to think of the octants as distinct actors in a system, as described in the above paragraph, but the story can of course be told in terms of scenarios. Given a system containing both Peaceful True Believers and Idealists, might the distinction between those with and those without faith by itself provoke violence or can we be confident that the future will be one of a peaceful society composed of some with faith and some without? Unfortunately, to the degree that people without faith distrust those with faith, an arms race and the rise of competing alliances may create a tense world. The greater the tension, the greater the pressure on all to become militant and the greater the opportunity for any (i.e., the Aggressors) who are by nature militant to gain influence. Thus, the likely scenario of the near future lies somewhere between Peaceful True Believer and Idealist. By the medium term, this may evolve toward Crusader or Aggressor, resulting in Violence over the long-term.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Friday, December 21, 2007

Modeling Violence

Designing an intuitive graphical method for studying
the causes of violent behavior

Against the backdrop of violence that plagues human society, a seemingly endless debate about the causes of violence goes on between those who look for causes of violence that could be addressed and those who see someone else as evil and thus consider punishment to be the solution. Meanwhile, everyone pays the price. Perhaps the answer includes a little of each, but certainly if we could identify and address causes, distinguishing violence with cause from pure viciousness, the price could be cut. Innovative modeling techniques that transform traditional scenario analysis into a flexible and suggestive system modeling tool may help to make this distinction.

Earlier posts presented the generic Behavior Model of a world in which behavior is a function of the actors’ conflict resolution strategy, the actors’ ideological commitment, and how challenging the political context (or “environment”) is. Here, two alternative ways of interpreting the model are presented to broaden its utility.

The structure of the Behavior Model provides the framework for clear reflection about how the three driving forces (conflict resolution strategy, ideological commitment, and context) function. The very emptiness of the octants begs for exploration of internal dynamics, and taking that step should lead one immediately to think about connections among the octants. “What distinguishes each?” and “What connects each to all the others?” become obvious questions when looking at the diagram. For these graphics, the purpose is not directly to reveal answers but to provoke questions.

The traditional next step would be to name each scenario and describe what story it represents, but the model also pulls one toward other types of questions that help one escape from the somewhat static concept of scenarios as alternative descriptions, of which one is expected to select one’s favorite.

Model As System. Consider the model as representing the actual system rather than alternative futures. If the whole model represents the system, then it defines a system containing eight “tendencies.” Using the model in this way, instead of the model representing eight alternative future possibilities, it represents eight distinct political tendencies – all of which are present in the system simultaneously. In other words, the model becomes a picture of the system. Traditional scenario analysis is unrealistic to the extent that it is interpreted as offering alternatives where the “one that comes true” utterly negates and replaces all the others. In reality, a scenario might dominate but reality would include actors favoring other scenarios and dynamics continuing to cause pressures in other directions (albeit in subordination to the dominant scenario). In the real world, a “peace” scenario would continue to contain aggravations operating beneath the political surface that might suddenly become dominant, causing the system to evolve from peace toward war, for example. This interpretation of the Behavior Model as the picture of a complicated system could lead to questions such as:

  • How do various political tendencies interact?
  • Which tendency dominates?
  • Under what circumstances will domination shift?

Behavior Model As Set of Actors. One could similarly interpret this model as representing not political tendencies but actors (or actor types, if you wish to think of it in those terms). Thus, the model would depict a system of eight actors, each with a distinct perspective—a rather realistic portrayal of a political system that underscores the reality that defeated viewpoints do not disappear but are much more likely just to be temporarily submerged by the victors of the moment. This perspective suggests questions such as:

  • Are there coalitions of actors that make intuitive sense and, therefore, should be anticipated?
  • Are there arrangements (e.g., coalitions or paired opponents) that would be particularly dangerous?

The above graphic shows one such coalition: Crusader + Aggressor. It is hypothesized that if a system contains both a crusader and an aggressor nominally on the same side (e.g., separate factions in the same country where the country is part of a larger system such that the crusader and the aggressor are both focusing outward), then these two actors will tend to form a coalition. If a Crusader and an Aggressor can unite, they will form a solid and threatening team because they will see eye-to-eye – the Crusader militant on the basis of faith and the Aggressor militant on the basis of calculation. A reinforcing loop will intensify this team’s aggressiveness, with the Crusader’s faith buttressing the Aggressor’s belief in its analysis and the Aggressor’s analysis buttressing the Crusader’s faith.

For now, I leave it to the reader’s imagination to find connections between this theoretical discussion and any real-world situation.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Iran Electoral Politics & National Security UPDATED!

Before the ink on my discussion of a possible Iranian electoral coalition between Khatami and Rafsanjani even dried, it turns out the coalition has been announced.

Pakistani Election Polls

Informative report on Pakistani elections, including new poll data, following another a few days ago--both from the China Matters blog.

Iranian Electoral Politics & National Security

What is the role of national security in Iran's electoral debate?
How do members of the Iranian elite define national security?

Former Iranian president Khatami has criticized Ahmadinejad’s economic policies, a criticism that strikes directly at one of the two key pillars in Ahmadinejad’s political support, which is based on economic assistance to the poor and nationalist resistance to American pressure.

Former Iranian nuclear negotiator and current director of a think tank under the Expediency Council Hassan Rohani has attacked a third pillar - national security, accusing Ahmadinejad of undermining rather than enhancing Iranian security. I distinguish the “pillar” of national security from that of resistance to the U.S. because Rohani’s remarks imply that he makes that distinction, i.e., that Ahmadinejad’s fiery rhetorical “resistance” in fact undermines Iran’s real national security.

As campaigning for the March 14 parliamentary election heats up, a potential electoral coalition of considerable power is visible in these two speeches by leading figures, respectively, in what may be called the “reform” and “realist” factions. Iranian politics may be thought of as composed of three factions, with Ahmadinejad’s faction being the ideologues. A powerful group of conservative clergy who see some merit in religious orthodoxy, some merit in economic development, and some merit in cautious national security also exists, under the Supreme Leader, Khamenei. One could argue that this group constitutes yet another faction, but it may be more accurate to think of it as a less structured and more flexible balancing group keeping its options open.

It is noteworthy that a pro-Khamenei newspaper recently attacked criticism of reform and realist faction leaders by the Ahmadinejad faction as "slander,” and a pro-Khamenei conservative recently criticized Ahmadinejad for risking Iran’s nuclear program. Here again, an implicit distinction is drawn between loud advocacy of national security and actually enhancing it: Ahmadinejad’s public support for Iran’s nuclear program “risks” Iran’s nuclear program!

Other analysts will have different names for these factions, and certainly the reality is much more complicated than I have portrayed here, but this simplified model facilitates addressing some key questions:

  • What factional alignments, both for the parliamentary elections and for the never-ending behind-the-scenes jockeying for influence within the government, are realistic possibilities?
  • What would the likely policy outcomes of various coalitions be?
  • What influence does the outside world have on the outcome?

The implication of the attacks on Ahmadinejad by Khatami and Rohani is that a coalition of the reform and realist factions is possible. The anti-Ahmadinejad remarks by Khamenei supporters further raises the possibility of Khamenei swinging his critical influence behind an anti-Ahmadinejad coalition that would focus on pragmatic economic development and cautious efforts to enhance Iran’s national security.

Whether or not such a coalition will in fact emerge depends in part on the international situation: to the degree that international tensions are reduced, the door opens for an Iranian electoral campaign between now and March that focuses on national security and domestic issues. Such an outcome would probably weaken Ahmadinejad’s faction because it would put him on the defensive since his economic record is poor. It would also strengthen ties between the reform and realist factions and perhaps entice support from the balancing group.

To the extent that the international situation remains characterized by inflammatory rhetoric that Ahmadinejad can exploit to run a campaign based on fear, attention will be drawn away from domestic issues (e.g., economics and civil rights), and serious discussion of long-term national security will be overwhelmed by emotional zenophobia. This type of election would play to Ahmadinejad’s strength. Moreover, the balancing group, already composed of conservatives, would have difficulty resisting the ideologues’ combined call for religious purity and super-nationalism.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Pro-Democracy Statement by Pakistani Ambassadors

A group of former Pakistani ambassadors has published a statement condemning the Pakistani dictatorship and calling for democracy.

Ending the Threat of Palestinian Peace

Palestinian unity has been smashed. Fatah is governing the West Bank and
compromising with Israel. The 10-foot-tall Palestinian enemy against which
Israel must defend itself with superpower-level armaments is beginning to look
like a midget, which raises a real problem:

What would happen if Israeli-Palestinian peace talks succeeded?

The expansionists and the militarists would be proven wrong. It would become incumbent upon both sides to live together in small crowded countries shoved right up next to each other. The excuse for establishing an Israeli national security state would be weakened; the excuse for constraining Palestinian democracy would be weakened. Politicians who make careers out of terrifying the voters would be faced with unemployment.

Tension harms everyone a little and helps a few a great deal. Peace may be nice for all but doesn’t help most people enormously. Therefore, peace has a hard time getting support. Most may of course prefer it, but it is the individuals who are hurt badly who complain, and peace hurts a few people a great deal.

So, what can be done about the threat, small though it may be, that Annapolis might actually produce peace? Here is a plan:
Such a plan is guaranteed to split the ranks of Palestinians, make it impossible for moderates to compromise, ensure outbreaks of violence by frustrated patriots, and provide, in short, more than enough excuses so that the “failure of peace” can be blamed—at least to the satisfaction of the ignorant—squarely on the heads of the oppressed Palestinian people.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Is War the Answer?

Caliphate? Democracy? National Security

Iraq, Afghanistan, & Somalia all suggest that war solves nothing.

War seems to be steadily rising in popularity among decision makers as the conflict resolution method of choice. The long, dark decades of Cold War fear are receding into our subconscious, while our frustration with the current global contest between radical Islamic nationalists and hardline neocolonial elites grows. To many—with the exception of the “details be damned, full speed ahead” decision makers on each side in this mad, global, “all options on the table” contest--using military means to resolve ideological, social, economic, and moral dilemmas appears intuitively to be not only pointless but counterproductive. Yet those who counsel caution and consideration for others are on both sides pilloried as “traitors” or sneered at as “naïve.” At the same time, leaders repeatedly make—with impunity—outrageously inflammatory threats about the options they will put “on the table,” the international equivalent of falsely yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater.

There is no doubt that this contest matters. The choice of caliphate run according to the most restrictive interpretations of sharia law, a world of democratic choice and local differentiation, or the mindless regimentation of the totalitarian national security state has real consequences for “us.” But victory of the middle choice—the flexible, creative but uncertain system that rests on the cautious and considerate participation of everyone—is by no means preordained.

If the contest is important and extremists on both sides are becoming increasingly successful in selling war as the conflict resolution means of choice, we need to be as certain as possible what outcome war will produce. We now have several cases of Western war against Moslem countries from which to draw conclusions.

Iraq. Iraq is the obvious case study for the argument that “war is the answer.” A quick 1991 invasion, a dozen years of sanctions and air war, followed in 2003 by a second invasion and four more years of anti-insurgency war have effectively destroyed Iraq. The country simply no longer exists by any reasonable definition of the term. Of course, an American colonial regime controls the geographic region that was Iraq – “controls” in the sense that U.S. troops can go wherever they want if they go in force. But no Iraqi government operating on a normal nationwide basis exists. More seriously, Iraqi society has been destroyed…and replaced by ethnic cantons administered by local militias. The various Sunni and Shi’ite militias seem to be evolving into, respectively, a Sunni and Shi’ite army amid indications that each is looking forward to the time when it will have the power to challenge the other in an all-out civil war. Such full-scale civil war featuring large-scale military forces on each side would raise at least three major dangers:
  • It would threaten to engulf the Kurdish region of Iraq, currently the only peaceful area, or to encourage Kurdish nationalism that could only be expected to spill over into Kurdish regions of Turkey, if not Iran and Syria;
  • It would open the door to renewed interference in Iraq by al Qua’ida-style jihadis;
  • It would threaten to bring Saudi Arabia into the conflict on the Sunni side and Iran on the Shi’ite side, generating a Saudi-Iranian proxy war, if not a direct conflict.

One could conceivably argue that these dangers are Iraqi domestic problems that would have no impact on the huge U.S. military bases, but that seems a weak argument. U.S. bases sitting like islands in a sea of chaos does little for the reputation of the U.S. in the world. Moreover, to the degree that radicals arise internally or once again gain access to Iraq as a result of internal chaos, military threat to U.S. supply lines and even to the bases themselves is conceivable. The potential danger to oil production from open civil war is too obvious to need explanation. Therefore, even from the narrow perspective of U.S. power projection, chaos in Iraq is a bad outcome.

To eliminate a dictator, war works, albeit at the high risk of setting up a situation conducive to the rise of another dictator. But a rapidly modernizing Iraqi society has been destroyed, some 3-to-4,000,000 Iraqis have turned into refugees putting huge strains on the Syrian and Jordanian states, a couple million more Iraqis have become internally displaced people, and the U.S. invasion provoked a campaign of terrorism that still has no end in sight inside Iraq and may well have serious international consequences.

If the goal was to remove a dictator or destroy Iraq as a Mideast power or take control of its oil or acquire a military base, then war worked. If the goal was for Iraq to become a stable U.S. ally, war failed. If the goal was to acquire reliable access to a flood of Iraqi oil, war has so far also demonstrably failed. If the goal was to create a peaceful, democratic society that would demonstrate that al Qua’ida’s vision of the future is wrong, then war was precisely the wrong method for achieving the goal. And in case anyone still thinks the war was about al Qua’ida, the U.S. invasion of Iraq was the fulfillment of al Qua’ida’s dreams. Perhaps fortunately for the world, the viciousness of al Qua’ida’s Iraqi operatives was so shockingly evident that it squandered what might have been a huge opportunity to win support. But Iraq was a learning process, and next time Islamic extremists may well avoid the excesses that damaged their prospects in Iraq.

Afghanistan. Afghanistan, invaded by the Soviets to quell a perceived threat of Islamic radicalism that could spill over the border into Moslem Soviet Central Asia, and then invaded again by the U.S. to destroy al Qua’ida and send a message to any other government that might be considering offering that organization sanctuary, represents another social disaster.[1] Opium production is booming, and the Taliban insurgency is spreading.

As with Iraq, if the goal was regime change, war worked over the short term but once again set up the conditions for the deposed system to be reinstalled. The Taliban constitute a social movement, so although war did remove them from power, it looks increasingly ineffective as a method of keeping them out of power, in great measure because many Afghanis join the Taliban because of social and economic injustices that they have personally suffered and continue to suffer. That is, the Taliban filled a social need that invasion failed to address.

If the goal was to destroy al Qua’ida, the war is likely to be judged by history as a failure, as well. Both as a functioning organization and as a vision with the power to motivate people, al Qua’ida seems very much alive five years later. As a means of creating a moderate, functioning society that can participate positively in the global political system or at least take care of itself without presenting a threat to that system, war in Afghanistan has clearly been counterproductive.

Somalia. The third obvious case is Somalia. In 2006 the Islamic Courts Union was well on its way to unifying and pacifying Somalia, bringing effective central government back to the country for the first time in more than a decade.[2] By July 2006, Ethiopian troops were in Somalia, and in December 2006 a full-scale Ethiopian military campaign was launched to back the disintegrating official Somali government and remove the ICU from power. Whether the Ethiopian attack was seen in Washington as an opportunity or was a U.S. war using Ethiopia as its proxy, the U.S. gave diplomatic and military support to Ethiopia.

  • According to Salim Lone in the International Herald Tribune, Ethiopia went into Somalia “with full U.S. backing and military training.”[3]
  • The U.S. was quick to provide public backing for the Ethiopians.[4]
  • The Pentagon has admitted sharing intelligence with Ethiopia, as well as providing arms and training to “intercept terrorists.”[5]

In the year since that Ethiopian campaign began, some 750,000 new refugees have been created in Somalia, and the ICU is now leading a self-proclaimed “jihad” against the Ethiopian forces. The ICU is leading a nationalist effort to free Somalia from foreign intervention and unite that Moslem country under a Moslem movement that will replace the ravages of warlords with the rule of sharia law. The degree to which the ICU sympathizes with al Qua’ida’s campaign against the West is unclear, but the experience of being attacked by the U.S. and its Ethiopian proxy will not easily be dismissed by Somali activists. War destroyed Somalia’s first chance in a generation for peace and effective national government. The threat of a takeover of the ICU by international jihadis wishing to put Somalia on the frontline in a war against the West seems plausibly to have existed. Whether the Ethiopian ground attack backed by U.S. bombing[6] eliminated a great danger or exacerbated conditions to the point of making that danger far worse is not yet clear. What is clear is that Somali society has been further damaged.[7]

Did war work? It is too soon to tell. If the goal was to take control of another oil-producing region,[8] war appeared for a few months to be effective, though this result has recently seemed less clear. If the goal was to reestablish effective government over a peaceful and productive society, it has been a disastrous failure; indeed, even the Ethiopians are now calling for international help to enable them to extricate themselves from the quagmire they created. Perhaps the recent public emphasis on African peacekeeping troops can lead to a process of genuine reconciliation, involvement of significant numbers of Islamic activists in some sort of broad governing coalition, and the reconstruction of Somali society, but the effort required in the aftermath of the year of war appears far greater than would have been needed a year ago.

Pakistan. Pakistan is an emerging case, though here it is not a matter of superpower invasion or proxy war by a neighbor but use of the country’s military against internal opponents. Will military attack with modern aircraft on villagers in Baluchistan, Waziristan, and Swat prove to be a solution to popular grievances and local insurgency or the spark that burns the house down? Pakistan does not fit the Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia pattern; rather, it may fit with Algeria, where another military dictatorship fought against a popular Islamic reform movement that was hijacked by Islamic extremists. As with Algeria, the moderate middle working for democracy is under attack in Pakistan by both the military dictatorship aided by the West and Islamic fundamentalists.

Lebanon. Following the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, Hezballah arose in the midst of a combined civil war/Israeli invasion as a nationalist uprising against Israel plus Islamic political movement. Lebanon today stands in the background of the Islamic world as a warning about the long-term consequences of more recent events. A generation after those Lebanese events, Hezballah is the most effective political party in Lebanon, is credited with having forced Israel to retreat after a 19-year occupation, faced a new Israeli onslaught in 2006 and emerged with a stalemate that amounted to a victory, and is in the midst of a peaceful campaign to enhance its political power within the Lebanese government. Hezballah is also an organization with the clear military capacity for violence and the clear political potential for a degree of radicalism many might find discomforting.

Lebanon presents a powerful model for the result of invading a Moslem society a generation later. The destruction, frustration, and anger produced by an invasion generates sociopolitical radicalism. What else could be expected? What is more radical than invasion? Radicalism from one side provokes radicalism by the other.

How closely will the Hezballah model be applied to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia over the next generation? In each country today, Islamic radicalism and nationalism are being mixed in a potent brew:

  • The popularity in Iraq of Moqtada al-Sadr’s activist, nationalist approach with a strong focus on providing civil services and Sunni-Shi’ite violence both resemble Lebanon in the 1980s.
  • The reemergence of the Taliban in southern Afghanistan also intertwines radicalism with nationalism and responds to popular frustrations with economic deprivation.
  • In Somalia, a decade of abuse by warlords led to the emergence of individual local Islamic courts to bring some degree of local justice to a society ruled by force; that, in turn, led to the organization of the Islamic Courts Union political party, once again looking very much like the Lebanese model.


Research Challenge

Do a counterfactual analysis of the Mideast based on the assumption that international peacekeeping forces in Lebanon in 1983 had forced Sharon to end his attack and withdraw from Lebanon. Point: to illustrate the dynamics generated by invasion of a Moslem society and learn lessons from Lebanon of value to today's Mideast/South Asia.


Removal of Israeli forces from Lebanon in 1983 when the international peacekeepers arrived, protection of Lebanon’s sovereignty, the integration of the poor into the political process, and the organization of effective local government that could have provided social services for the poor would have fundamentally changed the course of Lebanese history. Just as violence failed to resolve the problem in Lebanon, it has failed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia; Pakistan remains undecided.

War may be an effective short-term solution to a precisely defined problem (killing a dictator, acquiring resources), but the military campaign tends to be the cheap part if a long-term solution is to be found. Even if the goal is just to avoid having a dangerous dictator, war to remove him is likely to set up conditions conducive to the rise of another dictator. If the goal is to acquire resources, war is likely to create conditions that will hinder the exploitation of those resources (Iraqi oil remains well below pre-invasion production levels; Afghanistan remains too violent for the long-anticipated oil pipeline from Central Asia; Somali oil exploration rights have been held unused by Western corporations for nearly a generation).

If an organization exists that wants to create a war of civilizations between Islam and the West, then it will thrive in Moslem societies that have been wrecked and perceive the West to be responsible. A vacuum exists in such societies – a solution vacuum, a social services vacuum, a security vacuum. If these vacuums are not filled by responsible, caring government, they will be filled by extremists. War just makes the vacuums larger and more vulnerable to extremist pressure.

In the modern, highly connected, and highly ideological world, war between the West and Moslem societies aggravates the problems Western proponents of violence claim to be resolving. War breeds extremism.

[1] .
[2] .
[3] .
[4] .
[5] .
[6] .
[7] ; see also .
[8] For a persuasive argument that oil, not terrorism, was the real reason, see . Also see for a discussion of oil concessions cover two-thirds of Somalia that were awarded by Somalia’s dictator Siad Barre before his 1991 overthrow.

Israeli Cluster Bombs Killing Lebanese Children

Campaign to eliminate Israeli cluster bombs scattered over southern Lebanon and still killing Lebanese.

Foreign Policy Statement by Presidential Candidate Dennis Kucinich

The Cold War belief that peace comes through strength is as obsolete as the Edsel. In an interconnected world of trading partners afloat with nuclear weapons, war is unthinkable. [My emphasis.] The Europeans have turned away from the catastrophic wars of the last century which took over 100 million lives to embrace a new understanding of diplomacy and dialogue as well as a new understanding of patriotism. So must the United States. The world depends on it.

Does anyone in the world deny that the United States military is the strongest the planet has ever seen? Does anyone seriously believe that any country on earth can remain on the battlefield against the United States more than a half hour?

The United States must now embrace strength through peace. Because we spend more than the rest of the world combined we will clearly remain the world’s most powerful nation. But with that power comes a great responsibility. We must use our unrivaled power to lead, not to bully, the rest of the world. War must truly become the last desperate measure of self defense, not the handy policy tool it is now used for.

We are the planet’s first superpower able to destroy any society within an hour either conventionally or atomically. The fact that we can slice through any army on earth in hours has not prevented:

1) Growing antipathy and distrust towards the U.S. across the globe

2) Escalating bloodshed in Iraq

3) Looming wars in Iran and Syria.

4) Increasing terrorist acts against U.S. interests

5) Spiraling U.S. military spending

6) Spreading weapons of mass destruction

7) Growing conflicts and tension across the world

8) Ongoing arms race

By abandoning the arrogant “my way or the highway” attitude we can reengage the world in productive discussion on our common goals of universal peace and prosperity. Maintaining our current course of action will only end with a world in flames and economic ruin.”

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Ron Paul on U.S. Policy Toward Iran

Ron Paul on National Intelligence Report
MWC News - A Site Without Borders - - Wednesday, 12 December 2007
Key Points from Ron Paul's Article:
"The truth is Iran is being asked to do the logically impossible feat of proving a negative. They are being presumed guilty until proven innocent because there is no evidence with which to indict them. There is still no evidence that Iran, a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, has ever violated the treaty's terms – and the terms clearly state that Iran is allowed to pursue nuclear energy for peaceful, civilian energy needs. The United States cannot unilaterally change the terms of the treaty, and it is unfair and unwise diplomatically to impose sanctions for no legitimate reason.

Are we to think that Iran hasn't noticed the duplicitous treatment being received by so-called nuclear threats around the globe? If they have been paying attention, and I think they have, they would see that if countries do have a nuclear weapon, they tend to be left alone, or possibly get a subsidy, but if they do not gain such a weapon then we threaten them. Why wouldn't they want to pursue a nuclear weapon if that is our current foreign policy?"

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Explaining Pakistan

If you are wondering what is happening in Pakistan, read the delightful satire "Cricket in the Jungle."

Monday, December 10, 2007

Violence Even When Everyone Wants Peace

When does behavior turn violent? Can simple conceptual models help us understand what turns behavior violent even when both sides prefer peaceful conflict resolution? Continuing an earlier discussion of how to model behavior, here’s one theoretical example of how such counterintuitive behavior might occur…

Humans seem unable to avoid violence; perhaps we can devise simple theoretical models that will shed light on the reasons. A critical practical issue concerns the effect of the type of conflict resolution strategy preferred by each actor on the resultant behavior: whether behavior will tend to be conciliatory or violent. Given, for example, an actor with strong ideological commitment operating in a challenging environment, how much impact would that actor’s default conflict resolution strategy have on its likely behavior? To what extent can the behavior of an actor that prefers solutions based on force (the red scenario, below) be expected to differ from that of an actor that prefers negotiated solutions? Even if an actor prefers peaceful methods, given strong faith in one’s own righteousness and severe pressure from the “environment” or “context,” is peaceful conflict resolution a realistic expectation?

The Violence Scenario (Red): Violence is such a self-evident outcome of a situation in which an actor prefers to use force, is self-righteous, and faces a political threat, that one is inclined to ask what circumstances could conceivably prevent violence. One way to approach this would be to consider how far from the extreme one would have to move to prevent violence.

The Peaceful True Believer Scenario (Dark Gray): In the dark gray (lower left) octant is the true believer, an actor convinced of its own righteousness. Such an actor is presumably not interested in compromise but nevertheless prefers a peaceful approach to managing discord.

Such an actor will stand out because of its dedication to its own ideology; this commitment to something others do not believe in at all or do not have such total faith in may well make them uneasy. The true believer thus risks being perceived as a threat even if it has no aggressive intent. The true believer’s singlemindedness, unusualness, and resistance to compromise (because, to the true believer, every challenge is a matter of good vs. evil) raises the likelihood of a forceful response. Thus:

H1 = The more one is a true believer, the more likely an opponent is to
mistakenly see the true believer as a threat.

A pitfall also exists concerning the true believer itself. Given total dedication to a particular worldview, alternatives seem unacceptable, making it likely that a true believer will take more risks to defend his position than an actor predisposed to analyze the situation and consider potential compromise positions. Thus:

H2 = The more one is a true believer, the more likely one is to respond to a challenge with a risk-taking attitude.

Combining these two hypotheses leads to the cycle of unintended violence illustrated below. The causal loop diagram (a technique from system dynamics) suggests that even if the true believer is extremely committed to peaceful conflict resolution whenever given that option, the true believer is nevertheless likely to be drawn into conflict because others will misperceive the true believer’s ideological commitment as a threat of such immediacy that it demands counteraction.

Therefore, a system containing even one true believer already has two separate reinforcing loops pushing the system toward violence, and these two dynamics interact, further intensifying the effect – all in the absence of any aggressive intent on any actor’s part! With true believers on each side, a competition is all the more likely to turn violent, even if both true believers intend to exercise self-restraint. Hence, as shown in the scenario evolution diagram below, one may anticipate that the Peaceful True Believer Scenario (dark gray) will evolve into the Violence Scenario (Red).

This is an example of how dynamics can make a situation dangerous even though the initial values suggest that no danger exists and even though no actor has evil intent. This theoretical argument suggests that the dice are, in this instance, loaded against peace. The diagram below illustrates the dynamic that is, according to the hypotheses discussed in this post, controlling behavior in the Peaceful True Believer (dark gray) scenario.

Research challenge:

  1. To what extent does reality support this theoretical argument, summarized by the graphic above, in various domains?

  2. Are there general lessons that apply across all domains of human behavior?

  3. What can be done in practice to counteract this dynamic pushing a system containing a true believer toward violence?

Conclusion. The methodological lesson here is that much more than a description of a situation is required to enable prediction of behavior. Obviously, a system containing an “evil” actor bent on violence will be likely to generate violent behavior. A system containing only well-intentioned actors but under severe stress may well also generate violence. But the system in this example appears, descriptively, destined for peace; nevertheless, a dangerous dynamic may well push the system toward violence—unless recognized in advance so its pressure can be mitigated. A scenario analysis model that appears static has been revealed to be deceptively dynamic: by using scenario analysis as an easy introduction to organizing a challenging topic and then integrating dynamics into the model, it is possible incrementally to construct a rich yet understandable model of reality. In the process, one counterintuitive route has been revealed by which a peaceful situation can, despite the best intentions of all actors, evolve into violence.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

What Was Iran Thinking?

If the NIE is correct that Iran gave up its nuclear weapons program several years ago, then why does Iran give some people the impression it is hiding something?

Possible Answers:
  • Pride – Why is it incumbent upon us Iranians to prove our innocence while you are slapping us in the face?
  • Culture Clash – First, the current practice in Washington of publicly humiliating opponents in order to get them to be cooperative may be counterproductive. Second, the rhetorical style of Iranian statements, and particularly of Ahmadinejad’s personal rhetoric, sometimes makes it hard for Westerners to see past their emotional reaction to the actual message.
  • Willful Blindness – The Iranians have repeatedly stated their innocence and offered to negotiate without preconditions, but some in the U.S. have private agendas that make them resistant to this message.

Maybe the truth is simply what Iran says it is: Iran has a right to nuclear technology and is pursuing that technology but will stop short of producing weapons, not because of Western threats but because it wants nuclear energy, not weapons. Possibly so, but the truth probably goes at least a bit further than that: for Iran to have the clear, publicly recognized capability to produce nuclear arms if needed accomplishes two things:

  • Nuclear weapons capability arguably enhances Iran’s security by sending a warning without posing an immediate threat. This argument in the current international atmosphere is weakened considerably by the tendency of many to panic over the possibility that Iran might in the future obtain a few primitive versions of the weapons Israel and the U.S. already have. However, the fact that we may realize that this argument is a weak one does not prove Iranians do not believe it.
  • Nuclear weapon capability (or just the global perception thereof) dramatically strengthens Ahmadinejad’s personal political position.

Ahmadinejad may have been playing a dangerous game, but there is a certain logic to an ambitious politician exploiting fear and tension to enhance his own power: a risk-taking politician will calculate that the chance of war is small and the personal payoff from high tension (absent war) is enormous.

Maybe now Washington can stop playing Ahmadinejad’s game.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Africa's Horn: Blowing a Warning about an Islamic Political Fault Line

A map of current conflicts and areas of political tension that could soon turn into conflicts in the Islamic world appears to show a single, almost continuous political fault line. If the various individual political issues in the Islamic world are indeed being united by the emergence of such a fault line threatening to crack open the Islamic world over a single issue, then it should be possible to find in any of the individual issues evidence of a broader pan-Islamic contest. While the answer might seem intuitively obvious for such cases as Iraq, Pakistan, Palestine, or Afghanistan, what about an area at one end of the alleged fault line? What about the Horn of Africa?

Hypothesis = If the various individual political contests in the Islamic
world are being united by the emergence of an Islamic political fault line, then within each of those contests evidence of a broader pan-Islamic contest.
The failure of the international effort to settle the Eritrean-Ethiopian border dispute is now official,[1] an outcome that should have surprised no one because the border dispute is just one part of a must larger regional dispute that has entangled 1) Somalia’s struggle to re-create a national government, 2) a revolt by ethnic Somalis in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia, and 3) the broader Western struggle against Islamic fundamentalism. Linkage among issues has historically been disparaged by political scientists with good reason for serving as an excuse for the failure to make progress on anything, but it is highly questionable whether or not real progress can indeed be made toward resolving conflict in the Horn of Africa unless all these problems are dealt with simultaneously.

The reality of a political dispute is layered like an onion, except worse, since it is seldom clear which layer is the core or how they should be ordered. Perhaps the basic layer in the Horn of Africa is a broad socio-political struggle to reconstitute an ordered society, lost during the long struggle against the predatory interference of colonialism and Cold War antagonists. While the struggle in the Horn of Africa certainly resembles struggles elsewhere by local populations to re-order societies smashed by interaction with the West, this struggle in the Horn of Africa is at its core a local affair. Other local layers complicating the onion of political contention are a social struggle for economic survival and justice as well as a political struggle for power. More precisely, one could view each of the above layers existing independently in Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia—three of the four countries (along with Djibouti) today making up the Horn of Africa—or even break the process down more finely, with numerous spatial and temporal variations. One glimpse into the complexities of the situation is offered in the observation that by 2005 opposition to the Transitional Federal Government that had been formed in Somalia included “businessmen, warlords, organizations such as Al Itihad Al Islaami and dissident ministers of TFG,”[2] with both sides rapidly importing weapons, a situation that may have been local at its core but which opened the door to all manner of outside exploitation and interference.

The importance of local issues notwithstanding, a regional competition linking the whole Horn together complicates efforts at resolving the local issues. Eritrea and Ethiopia have been struggling directly with each other since Eritrea became independent in the early 1990s after a 30-year war with Ethiopia.

  • A border war between the two in 1998 led to some 70,000 casualties. [3]

  • According to the UN, the two sides now have a total of 200,000 along their 1000-kilometer border,[4] and they have yet to reach agreement on where the border should lie.

  • Al-Ittihad al-Islamiah (Islamic Union), a Somali group with ties to the Islamic Courts Union, has been working for many years for the secession of the ethnic Somali Ogaden region of Ethiopia,[5] and the establishment of an Islamic state in Somalia.[6]

  • Ethiopia has been interfering in Somalia’s domestic situation since at least 2002[7] and Eritrea on the opposing side probably equally long.

Today, both are now so deeply involved in Somalia’s efforts to reconstitute itself as a functioning society with an effective government that the internal Somali conflict has been described as an Eritrean-Ethiopian proxy war.[8] Indeed,

  • Eritrea sent arms and soldiers to help the Islamic Courts Union;[9]

  • leaders of the Islamic Courts Union met this fall in Eritrea to “establish a political organization” to “liberate” Somalia from the Ethiopians” according to one of the party’s leaders;[10]

  • a year ago when it became clear that the Islamic Courts Union was about to unify Somalia, U.S.-backed Ethiopia intervened with overwhelming military force and temporarily defeated the Islamic Courts Union, before becoming bogged down;

  • The US is reportedly supporting Ethiopia’s brutal effort to suppress a long-standing successionist movement in its Ogaden region, where the Ethiopian use of untrained troops, the blockade of food supplies to civilians to punish the population by the Ethiopian government,[11] and Ethiopian army massacres of villagers are alleged.

The result is a steady spread of the epidemic of violence throughout the region, with Somalia and the Ogaden[12] region of Ethiopia now engulfed in intensifying violence and the Ethiopian-Eritrean border threatening to be the next battleground.

On top of these layers lie broader pan-Islamic issues that Washington is guilty of both stimulating and aggravating. As William Minter warned a year ago in an article comparing U.S. behavior toward Iraq with its behavior toward Somalia,

The United States and Ethiopia cut short efforts at reconciliation and
relied on hyped-up intelligence. They disregarded Somali and wider African
opinion in an effort to kill alleged terrorists. And while chalking up
military "victories," they aggravated long-term problems. Far from advancing
an effective strategy against terrorism, the intervention is providing
opportunities for terrorist groups to expand their reach.

The evidence suggests that outside forces have been working to radicalize the Horn of Africa.
According to a 2002 UN report, not only has Ethiopia been arming militias in Somalia but so have the U.S., as well as Middle Eastern and East European countries.

  • On top of the original al Qua’ida presence in Somalia in the 1990s, in 2003 a new network emerged and the U.S. built up a network to oppose it.[14]

  • The UN reported in late 2006 that Somali activists had supported Hezbollah’s effort to resist the summer 2006 Israeli invasion of Lebanon.[15]

  • US support for Ethiopian military involvement broadens the war from a regional conflict to a global one, tempting in forces whose primary interest is fighting against the U.S.[16]

  • US viewing the war as anti-Islamic makes the fighting worse, compromise more difficult.[17]

The evidence that significant forces within the Horn want their societies to be on the frontline of a global attack on the West, however, is very thin indeed. An argument that any one of these societies itself constitutes a threat to the West and thus needs to be attacked and suppressed would be difficult to support. Whatever threat to the West may be coming from this region appears to exist because the internal chaos opens the door to outside intervention and exploitation. It follows that the resolution of the problem is likely to come through providing help for these societies to stand on their own, not through military attacks that spread further violence.

The implications of the trend toward broader conflict and more outside involvement are ominous. First, the problem becomes steadily more complicated and more difficult to resolve. For example, in recent years, social chaos increasingly dissatisfied the business community in Mogadishu, so it backed the creation of Islamic courts,[18] which both worked to bring social peace and rules of behavior in accordance with Islamic precepts. The more these courts focused on Islamic legal principles, the more they were accused of being in league with “terror”; the more they were so accused, the more military pressure was brought on them by the U.S., Ethiopia, and their Somali allies. The courts, which seem to have started as a reasonable response to the social chaos that existed, are now united as a political party. In fact, this party also appeared to be bringing peace and order to Somalia until it was overthrown by force in 2007 by Ethiopian troops. In the event, the party is now running a rebellion against that Ethiopian army, and is accused of being part of a jihadi terror movement. Which is chicken and which is egg is hard to say: it is not at all clear what the likelihood was that the Islamic Courts Union, if allowed to unify the country, given international diplomatic recognition , and offered international aid, might have ended up being a proxy for al Qua’ida, willing to put Somalia on the front line in a global conflict against the West. One can only wonder what the result might have been if the courts had been welcomed and supported by the West for bringing justice to a land plagued by chaos; instead of pushing all Moslems together and alienating them all, what if moderate Islamic activism were encouraged by the West as a means of providing local justice?

Second, the more the U.S. supports the military intervention of an anti-Islamic country using extreme violence and punishment of the civilian population, the more this will come to be perceived as a crusade for all Islamic activists. Even when justified in an immediate sense, counterterrorist efforts that are perceived as heavy-handed alienate the population. Like Iraq after the 2003 US invasion, the Horn of Africa will become a target attracting radicals.

Third, the more violence is used as the method of resolving conflict, the more it tends to be exploited for criminal purposes, e.g., armies stealing property, attacking hospitals, using horrendous weapons such as white phosphorus that undoubtedly create more antagonism than their military value.[19] As violence increases, the tendency of the TFG and its allies to exploit the chaos by making alarmist accusations of “terrorism” to enhance their influence rises.

War Against Islamic Extremism or War by Western Extremism? The evidence concerning the root causes of conflict in the Horn of Africa make it clear that local causes are critically important. The failure to replace functioning traditional methods of governance over the last half century with new forms after the harsh process of contact with the Western world destroyed those traditional methods as well as the ensuing local collapse of political structure, starvation, militarization of society, and injustice form the core of the region’s conflict. Regional competition for power both by ethnic groups desiring some mixture of respect, equality, autonomy, or sovereignty and by arrogant politicians exploiting real problems for personal gain is exacerbating the local issues.

Conflict in the Horn has surely become complicated by a global struggle between Islam and the West. The evidence does suggest that the conflict in the Horn of Africa is being exploited by outside forces on both sides. Both Islamic extremists and some Western politicians, eager to provoke a titanic conflict that each side believes it can win, are increasingly pushing the people of the Horn into extreme positions, undercutting the moderate middle, in order to fight a proxy war at the expense of the populations of Somalia, Ethiopia, and Eritrea. As in the Cold War, local people are being forced to choose sides in a fight that is really not their fight. The battle in the Horn of Africa, as it was in the Cold War, is primarily about justice, security, and governance, but the world will not leave the Horn alone…in part, for sure, because in any disrupted society, volunteers can always be found to help bring the world’s battles into the local backyard. As the political arena is polarized by the efforts of outside forces to win through military means and social problems are intensified by the resultant chaos, individuals who might have become reformers become radicalized. As war eliminates the option of moderate reform, reformers turn into radicals and join sides with extremist outside forces, which, if nothing else, can at least offer money and weapons.

It remains far less clear, however, that the Islamic groups, such as the Islamic Courts Union, operating today in the Horn of Africa would participate in an international military jihad against the U.S. if offered the choice of concentrating on reestablishing a just and peaceful society at home. The U.S. needs to examine conflict in Islamic societies with much finer resolution…to distinguish between Islamic extremists bent on violence against civilians and Islamic activists whose goal is domestic reform. These two groups agree that their societies have problems--at least in part created by contact with the West--that need to be resolved, but they do not necessarily agree on the methods or the end goal. Lumping these groups together not only creates a much more powerful opponent, it leaves the local population with little choice but to support the extremists.

To resolve this conflict, methods of undercutting local extremists and preventing them from joining the world’s battles without bringing those battles to local societies that are simply struggling for domestic justice must be found. The issue is not about convincing the societies of the Horn of Africa to support some Western global struggle; the issue is about insulating these long-mistreated societies from outside problems so they can deal with their own problems. Both Washington and al Qua’ida emphasize military power and political polarization: is this approach working? The explosion of Somali refugees during the year of U.S.-supported Ethiopian military intervention in the Somali civil war makes the answer clear: 1,000,000 Somalis, some 15% of the population, is now displaced. For those who see chaos as the way to achieve their goals, yes, the method is working.

[2] Report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia pursuant to Security Council resolution 1587 (2005) in
[3] “Ethiopian President Calls for Military Buildup to Counter Eritrea,” Associated Press, Octobder 8, 2007, in
[4] Jack Kimball, “Eritrea Accuses Ethiopia of Having ‘Declared War,’” Reuters, November 21, 2007, in
[5] Jonathan Stevenson, “What’s Going On in Somalia?,” December 27, 2006, in
[6] Meron Tesfa Michael, “Somalia: Rocky Road to Peace, March 25, 2003, in
[7] Meron, op cit.
[9] Jonathan Stevenson, “What’s Going On in Somalia?,” December 27, 2006, in
[10] “Islamic Courts at Eritrea Meeting,” in
[14] “Counter-terrorism in Somalia: Losing Hearts and Minds?” International Crisis Group, Africa Report No. 95, July 11, 2005.
[16] .
[17] .


Thursday, December 6, 2007

Modeling Political Behavior

Designing a simple, intuitive, graphical approach to modeling the likelihood of violent vs. peaceful political behavior...

Thinking about the future is plagued with unstated assumptions, misunderstood terminology, and unrecognized biases. Methodological rigor is the best defense against such, in the modern world, dangerously sloppy thinking.

Scenario analysis is an intuitively attractive method for thinking about the future, but its scientific value rests in great part on the choice of axes (variables) used to construct the analytical landscape. Scenario analysis must rely on political science to provide the theoretical foundation for selecting the axes, but political science has unfortunately not reached the point of being able to identify with assurance the minimum set of core variables determining foreign policy behavior and certainly not the 2 or 3 that constitute the number that scenario analysis can effectively manipulate. Finding the best set of variables is thus very much a matter of experimentation. For example, I have examined:

The "Political Behavior Model," below, portrays a landscape of political behavior to distinguish eight alternative scenarios that would theoretically result from the assumption that the level of violence is a function of three variables.

Here, an abstract model of political behavior based on three variables is proposed, with the variables being:

  • ideological commitment;
  • conflict resolution strategy;
  • the nature of the environment.

The degree of ideological commitment goes from an attitude of unquestioning faith in oneself to an attitude of openminded analysis. Conflict resolution strategy goes from a strategy based on violence to a strategy based on peace. The nature of the environment in which the actor exists includes political context and whatever other contextual factors may impinge on political behavior.

The figure below highlights the two extreme scenarios. The red octant represents the Conflict Scenario, in which the group being analyzed is characterized by a military conflict resolution strategy and extreme faith in itself, while operating in a challenging environment, which I hypothesize will generate conflictual behavior. The acquamarine octant represents the oppose extremes, which I hypothesize will generate amicable behavior.

To examine the future of global affairs, concepts need to be at a level of abstraction that allows them to be applied to states, sub-state actors, and supra-state actors. In today’s world, critical actions may well be taken by insurgencies or global movements. Whatever the political group, its ideological commitment, its conflict resolution strategy, and the nature of the political environment within which it exists are basic factors influencing its behavior.

Future posts will extend the methodology of this abstract scenario analysis model and apply it to real-world issues.

Israeli Response to Annapolis

According to Media With Conscience, "Israel has approved plans to build more than 300 new homes on Jewish settlement sites in occupied east Jerusalem, drawing quick Palestinian condemnations that the move will undermine peace talks."

According to Zeev Boim, Israel's construction and housing minister, "Secretary of State Rice should be congratulated for her efforts in relaunching the peace process," "But this cannot constantly be linked to the cessation of construction in Jerusalem."

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Opportunity for Iran to Seize the High Ground

So far, there seems to have been no Iranian response to the Gulf Cooperation Council proposal to set up a consortium to provide enriched uranium for all Mideast countries. Iran is missing an opportunity to seize the moral high ground on the nuclear issue. Acceptance of the GCC proposal would:

  • Minimize the likelihood of a Saudi-Iranian nuclear arms race;
  • Make Iran look like a peacemaker;
  • Strengthen its charm offensive toward other Persian Gulf states;
  • Take some wind out of the sails of the Washington war party;
  • Take an initial step toward a new principle that Iran should welcome: nuclear equality in the Mideast rather than an Israeli nuclear monopoly.

Refusal by Iran, conversely, would:

  • Provide evidence for those who claim Iran is a threat;
  • Support the contention that Iran intends to build nuclear bombs;
  • Make it easier for anti-Iranian Arabs to argue in favor of a US or Israeli attack.

Iran may feel that its international position is strong, given how the US invasion of Iraq has played into its hands, but it should think hard before rejecting a compromise offer from its neighbors. Such an agreement might well come at a personal political cost to Ahmadinejad, however, for he would lose his bully pulpit of using uranium enrichment as the symbol of Iranian nationalism and independence. Will Iranian decisionmakers see this contradiction between Iranian national interest and Ahmadinejad’s personal interest? Look for discussion of this issue in the Iranian media…

Monday, December 3, 2007

Palestine: Current Realities & Future Options

"If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South
African-style struggle for equal voting rights (also for the Palestinians in the
territories), then, as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished
Ehud Olmert, Nov 28, 2007

"More and more Palestinians are uninterested in a negotiated, two-state
solution, because they want to change the essence of the conflict from an
Algerian paradigm to a South African one. From a struggle against
`occupation,' in their parlance, to a struggle for one-man-one-vote. That
is, of course, a much cleaner struggle, a much more popular struggle - and
ultimately a much more powerful one. For us, it would mean the end of the
Jewish state
.” – Ehud Olmert, Nov 13, 2003

So, the current system in Israel A) is apartheid, B) cannot last because of demographic realities. Therefore, the future for Palestine is either two religiously distinct states or a single democratic state in which Jews and Palestinians would co-exist and in which Palestinians would have the majority.

Now, that’s a basis for dialogue and policy-planning. Doesn’t the truth clear the air?

Invitation au Monde Francais

Je voudrais inviter le monde francais a lire mon blog au sujet de la politique internationale et de m’envoyer vos pensees. Il n’est pas possible, je crois, de comprendre bien les evennement dans le monde politique si on ne parle que dans une langue. Dans ce cas, trop de gens avec des pensees importants n’aurais d’opportunite de s’exprimer. Alors, je vous invite d’ajouter des commentaires en francais. Essayer, je vous en prie, d’enseigner le monde anglais comme penser le monde francais au sujets comme:

  • Le future de la politique internationale
  • l’avenir du Moyen-Orient
  • les programmes nucléaire d’Iran, Israel, Pakistan
  • la lutte contre el-Qaëda
  • la politique islamiste.

Was Annapolis About War Against Iran?

Was Annapolis a meeting seeking peace...or cover for launching war?

This French analysis of the Annapolis meeting merits careful reading. With informative, indeed ominous, references to both Israeli and Arab media, it concludes by asking if the "Annapolis Potemkin village is hiding the preparations for a war against Iran ." ("le village Potemkine d’Annapolis cache-t-il la préparation d’une guerre contre l’Iran ?")