The lens through which International Relations and International Conflict can best be understood is one where Conflict is viewed as a Crisis in Human Interaction. Whereas resources, power and identity all contribute to the dynamics of conflict, the focus in studying international relations needs to be on the changing dynamics of interaction as the interaction unfolds between and among individuals, groups or nation states.
The definition of Conflict as a Crisis in Human Interaction derives from the work of the Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation, especially the writings of Robert Baruch Bush and Joseph Folger. This theory of conflict goes beyond those that emphasize or focus only on satisfying individual or competing needs, leveraging power or focusing on legal rights.
Two key elements shape and influence the quality of human interaction- Empowerment and Recognition. Empowerment speaks to the extent to which individuals or groups have influence, clarity, resources or choices available to them. Recognition speaks to the experience of being heard, listened to, understood and included in the process of change. Where interaction provides opportunities for empowerment and recognition, positive shifts in the interaction can be expected; where either empowerment or recognition opportunities are limited or denied all together, there results a negative shift in the interaction.
What is revealed to you in the set Camcast video clips are specific examples and discussions relating to shifting dynamics of interaction. As you watch, look for opportunities where empowerment and recognition have been supported or denied. How is the interaction between and among parties in conflict impacted?
It is our relatING that will shape our relatIONS. Conflict Analysis opens our eyes to the dynamics of empowerment and recognition at work. In his book, Building Peace, John Paul Lederach explains that “The relational dimension involves the emotional and psychological aspects of conflict and the need to recognize past grievances and explore future interdependence.”
Conflict Analysis Video Links
Dysfunctional Politics, Bill Richardson
Iran and North Korea, Bill Richardson
Latin America and Africa, Bill Richardson
The Privatization of War, Lawrence Wilkerson
Democracy vs. The War State, Lawrence Wilkerson
The Great Recession and Partisanship, Nicholas Burns
Domestic Costs of Perpetual War, Nicholas Burns
North Korea and Nuclear Weapons, Nicholas Burns
Iran and Arab Spring, Nicholas Burns
Isolationism and Unilateralism, Nicholas Burns
Devising a National Strategy, Wayne Porter
The Responsibilities of Citizenship, Porter/Mykleby
Study Guide Questions for Conflict Analysis
1. How is our current political environment a fitting example of what Bill Richardson describes as “dysfunctional politics”?
2. What projections could one make based on Lawrence Wilkerson’s assessment that the U.S. in engaged in a state of “perpetual war”?
3. What is the difference between “Isolationism” and “Unilateralism”? What does Nicholas Burns caution us against in regards to these two policies?
4. What solutions can you offer to the growing political divide in the U.S.? How might both political parties feel more empowered and recognized?
5. Is the U.S. making progress toward achieving what Wayne Porter described as a “Sustainable Strategic Ecology”? What are your thoughts on the efficacy of his biosphere analogy?
6. What, according to Wayne Porter and Mark Mykleby, is the U.S. Military NOT responsible for? How do Mark Mykleby’s and Wayne Porter’s comments regarding the roles and responsibilities of citizenship affect you?