Identifying Potential Ethnic Conflict: Application of a Process Model

By Oliver, George F. | Parameters, Spring 2002 | Go to article overview

Identifying Potential Ethnic Conflict: Application of a Process Model


Oliver, George F., Parameters


Edited b Thomas S. Szayna. Arlington, Va.: RAND Arroyo Center, 2000. 328 pages. $25.00.

This is a difficult book to read and comprehend, but the model presented has merit. The best part of this book is its in-depth analysis of four case studies: Yugoslavia, South Africa, Ethiopia, and Saudi Arabia. As the acknowledgements state, the book was commissioned by the US Army's Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence and is intended for use by members of the intelligence community to predict the outcome of ethnic conflicts.

In the new world order of the 21st century, internal ethnic conflicts dominate crises around the globe. The authors state that between 1988 and 1998 there were 108 conflicts, yet only seven were interstate wars. With the rise of global communications, global economics, and worldwide interests, it behooves the intelligence community to be able to predict when a crisis will erupt. The authors introduce a model that enables analysts to track and predict ethnic conflicts. The model is quite comprehensive. The criteria, and subsections of each, provide a systematic approach for predicting the outbreak of ethnic violence.

The authors introduce three criteria to determine the outbreak of ethnic conflict. These are: closure, the structures within a state and the power struggle between them; transformation, identifying the conditions within a nation or region that could cause an eruption into conflict; and, last, the actual catalysts that create the outbreak of violence. Simply stated, the model uses three stages to depict the likelihood of conflict (strife): the potential for strife, transformation into likely strife, and the transition from likely to actual strife.

Stage I of the model, closure, refers to the power struggle between various elements within a nation attempting to gain power.

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