Thesis: Conflict Resolution and Post Conflict Reconstruction in the International System

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International Relations

Conflict Resolution and Post-Conflict Resolution in the International System

Conflict is a fact of international relations. States make war on each other and, factions within states disturb internal order. Prior to 1945, the victorious party usually destroyed, punished, or absorbed the loser. Empires were created and dismantled. Civil wars ended in the assumption of control by a particular group. The vanquished lost their freedom or struggled to pay indemnities and tributes. Yet the destruction wrought by war can have lasting consequences. As World War II demonstrated, it is often better to build up ones former rivals than to leave them to cope with the aftermath of conflict. Catastrophic destruction and displacement can breed further conflict. Resentments stir popular movements. The aggrieved parties become terrorists. Conflict Resolution and Post-Conflict reconstruction programs aim to alleviate these difficulties. Policymakers try to head off future conflicts by employing a variety of political, economic, and military tools. They attempt to address the root causes of dissatisfaction, or to create institutions that will lead to greater cooperation. They rebuild shattered economies and offer hope to the disaffected. As a last resort, unilateral or multilateral military action can be used preemptively to forestall open warfare. Troops can also be peacemakers, and in some cases, even nation-builders. While nation-building is now considered by most to be an extreme option, conflict resolution and post-conflict reconstruction do typically involve the restructuring of societies. The object is to build a new nation that will function as a peaceful and productive member of the international community, a successful state that will serve American and global interests.

Political approaches to conflict resolution and post-conflict reconstruction are closely intertwined with the possible economic and military pathways. Politics means identifying and talking with leaders. But first, one needs friendly leaders. Much contemporary policy involves identifying potential problem states and intra-state groups. So-called "rogue states" are those that operate outside the normal rules of the international community. Terrorist groups within states and across state borders also violate accepted norms. Many of the problems associated with these entities revolve around the inability of states' to effectively exercise control and provide basic services to their citizens. Francis Fukayama identifies three major sources of state success or failure: (1) the scope of state institutions (2) the strength of a state's organization, and (3) the state's general economic well-being.

Merely being democratic or responsive to citizens' needs is insufficient to prevent the possibilities of unrest. A state like Argentina collapsed economically because the scope of its activities was too broad for its capabilities. The Argentine state tried to plan and control too much of its economy and its civil service was not up to the task, and could not control massive budget deficits.

Developing nations, in particular, often fall prey to an improper balance between institutional control and institutional power, with catastrophic results. The idea of relative control vs. relative ability applies, as well, to relations between states. The United States has at times adopted a "pivotal state" strategy that seeks to direct American resources toward states that can exert maximum influence and control in a given strategic region. Military sales, economic preferences, and outright foreign aid are directed toward the nation that is seen as a region's major player - "Brazil sneezes and Argentina catches cold."

The theory is that the dominant nation will directly and indirectly influence the smaller states. Unfortunately, such a policy depends on the willingness of each state to play its part in America's foreign policy goals. Sometimes, states cannot or will not meet these expectations. An easier, though not always appropriate strategy, employs buffer states, as Josef Stalin did in Eastern Europe or as America has attempted to do in Southeast Asia.

The buffer state depends on what Miskel calls the "tectonic plates" of world diplomacy.

These first and second plates represent respectively the developed and developing worlds. Nations that wish to achieve success as full-fledged members of the international community must conform to the aims of those of the first tectonic plate. Political pressure is applied to cause second plate states to do the following:

Eliminate opportunities for terrorist and criminal organizations to establish bases of operations

Remove the incentive for refugees to flee into other countries

Enable law enforcement, humanitarian, and public health agencies to expand their operations and thereby gradually improve living conditions and prevent the spread of crime and disease

The buffer state functions as a cordon against those second plate states that have not yet implemented the above requirements. Again, buffers are only as good as the states they contain. Additionally, their proximity to failing states may be such that they afford little direct protection or influence.

Economic factors are key components on the list of desired changes in state behavior and performance. Readily apparent or festering beneath the surface, economic grievances are strong motivators of unrest and terrorism. Throughout the broader Middle East, millions of unemployed young men struggle to find a place in a rapidly globalizing modern world. They chafe under systems where wealth is commandeered by government patronage systems. The anger of these young men is easily tapped by charismatic leaders. These problems are especially acute in failing or failed states, like Afghanistan, Iraq, and in the Palestinian territories. Hamre and Sullivan stress the importance of meeting basic economic needs through the provision of emergency relief and the restoration of essential services, and also the provision of funds for education and health services.

Each of these elements diminishes the need for an illicit economy or black market. Terrorist operations are commonly financed through the illegal sale of legitimate goods - such as diamonds in West Africa - or through trade in prohibited substances like illegal drugs.

The Bush Roadmap for peace between Israelis and Palestinians emphasized "lifting curfews, and easing restrictions on movements of persons and goods," for the purposes of rebuilding Palestinian society and making it self-sufficient economically.

As the cornerstone of a fully-functional civil society, a vibrant economy serves as the basis for building enduring political and security structures. A prosperous society is a democratic and peaceful society.

Nevertheless, military means must sometimes be employed to alter otherwise intractable situations. A significant part of the original Oslo agreements involved the building up of a Palestinian security forces and joint cooperation with Israeli forces. The belief was that such institutions afforded Palestinians direct control over their own affairs. Unfortunately, Hamas used the agreement as a way of building up its own well-equipped anti-Israeli force. The Roadmap tried to address this development by reorganizing the multiple Palestinian security forces into a single set of three services reporting directly to a Palestinian minister of state. These restructured forces would then gradually resume real security responsibilities in cooperation with Israeli forces and U.S. security officials.

The change represented a recognition of the fact that the Palestinians, left to their own devices, had continued to foment unrest and disseminate militant anti-Israeli propaganda. By bringing the security forces back under the supervision and control of Israel and "the Quartet" i.e. The United States, United Nations, European Union, and Russia, the Roadmap envisioned direct intervention when necessary. It was the uncontrolled Palestinian military build-up that led directly to the explosion of the Second Intifada and the resultant devastating attacks on Israeli security personnel and civilians. Israel had been compelled to launch a direct attack on the Palestinian forces, launching a major raid against Palestinian targets in Lebanon. The blow softened the Palestinian security apparatus and opened the region up to greater Israeli and Quartet control. Military actions are normally a last resort in conflict reconstruction. They are resorted to only when necessary to clear away barriers to the creation of a viable civil society. On an economic level, they also sweep up the illegal economies that are an impediment to the growth of democracy and the rule of law. Military interventions permit the policing of hostile areas and the implementation of socio-political and economic reforms.

As can be seen from the current state of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, and conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan and other trouble spots, the end of the Cold War has not necessarily made the implementation of the political, economic, and military aspects of conflict resolution and post-conflict reconstruction any simpler. If anything, the need for real strength and directed action has grown greater. The United States attempted an almost unilateral resolution of many of these conflicts. The approach worked to some extent, but foundered on the lack of full international support. It would appear that unilateral approaches work only in situations where the leader of a bloc is overwhelmingly dominant. In the immediate aftermath, and also during the years of the Cold War, the United States stood virtually unchallenged at the head of a host of much weaker nations. In 1945, the United States could take bold and direct action in Germany and Japan. Within a few years, Soviet acquisition of nuclear technology had constituted the Soviet Union a rival superpower. For the next forty… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Conflict Resolution and Post Conflict Reconstruction in the International System.  (2008, December 14).  Retrieved May 20, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/conflict-resolution-post-reconstruction/838192

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"Conflict Resolution and Post Conflict Reconstruction in the International System."  Essaytown.com.  December 14, 2008.  Accessed May 20, 2019.
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