Ethnic Identity Groups and U.S. Foreign Policy

By Thomas Ambrosio | Go to book overview
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Chapter 9

Peace as a Three-Level Game: The Role of Diasporas in Conflict Resolution

Yossi Shain and Tamara Cofman Wittes1

Many violent conflicts in the world today center around the definition of ethnic and national communities according to the territories they hold and the populations they include. Some of these identity conflicts not only involve issues of sovereign boundaries and security within a specific territory but also impact on the lives and well-being of other communities—in particular, kin communities outside the state—that share ethnic ties with the people engaged in the conflict. The resolution of violent conflicts that revolve around identity issues often requires addressing an audience beyond the boundaries of the state and the arena of the conflict: the audience of diaspora communities in far-off lands. This has been the case for the Jewish and Armenian diasporas, in the United States and elsewhere, which participate, directly and indirectly, in their homelands' conflicts and must therefore be taken into account by governments in building state policies that shape the prospects for conflict resolution.

The Armenian-American diaspora consists of nearly one million people, the Jewish-American diaspora about six million. They are generally acknowledged to be the two most effective ethnic groups at advocating their issues in the U.S. political system. Armenia and Israel, undoubtedly in part as a result, are the largest per capita recipients of U.S. foreign aid. 2 Moreover, the Arab-Israeli conflict and the war over Nagorno-Karabagh both engage world attention because of their implications for key issues of concern to the United States and others: regional stability in the Middle East and the Caucasus, access to oil resources, protection of human rights, and the dangers of weapons proliferation and spiraling regional conflict that could draw in neighboring states. The ways in which diaspora involvement in these cases influences the prospects for peace are therefore of direct concern to the United States and other states that invest time and


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