Modern Politics -- Conflict Resolution and Ethnicity by Mohamed Rabie

Article excerpt

Conflict Resolution and Ethnicity, by Mohamed Rabie. Westport, CT and London: Praeger, 1994. viii + 219 pages. Bibl. to p. 223. Index to p. 229. $55.

Reviewed by Simona Sharoni

What role does ethnicity play in conflict situations and how can a better understanding of its dynamics contribute to the peaceful resolution of conflicts in the post-Cold War era? Mohamed Rabie, a former professor of economics who lived and taught in both the United States and Kuwait, explores these questions in Conflict Resolution and Ethnicity. Rabie does not treat conflict as a negative phenomenon, but rather as "an integral part of individual life and of intergroup and interstate relationships. [Accordingly] conflict can never be eliminated; it can only be managed to minimize its negative impact, reduce its intensity, and facilitate its positive role in human development" (p. 50).

The book examines four strategies of dealing with conflict--crisis prevention or avoidance, crisis management, control and containment, and conflict resolution--concluding that conflict resolution is the most desirable approach. Rabie insists that "conflict resolution moves to create peace processes and facilitate the establishment and maintenance of peace [while] crisis avoidance, crisis management, and conflict containment move usually to prevent or stop war, while sustaining conflict and manipulating its real causes" (p. 60). Conflict resolution, in Rabie's view, articulates a vision to change the status quo and eliminate the major sources of tension by "building integrative relationships that separate interests from values, emphasizing interests and recognizing values" (p. 58).

To examine the applicability of conflict resolution theories to the transformation of ethnic conflict, Rabie compares and contrasts three models: the consociational model, the control model, and the shared homeland model. According to Rabie, the consociational model "is a power sharing model that views different cultural groups as partners interested in overcoming their differences to make the system work and therefore are willing to negotiate and make compromises" (p. 61). The control model, on the other hand, is often designed "to achieve political stability by allowing the majority to have a near-total control over the minority ... [and] to enhance the interests of the controlling majority at the expense of the controlled minority, reducing it to a position of subordination and submission" (pp. 61-2).

Rabie presents the shared homeland model as an alternative to these models. He originally developed it to deal with the Arab-Israeli conflict. The underlying assumption of this model is that "ethnic and national conflicts arise from the fact that two or more peoples who feel different from each other live together in one country and are tied to each other in formal relationships that are perceived by one or more parties as unsatisfactory or discriminatory"(p. …