Academic journal article Military Review

Identifying Potential Ethnic Conflict: Case Applications of a Process Model

Academic journal article Military Review

Identifying Potential Ethnic Conflict: Case Applications of a Process Model

Article excerpt

IDENTIFYING POTENTIAL ETHNIC CONFLICT: Case Applications of a Process Model, Thomas S. Szayna, ed., RAND, Santa Monica, CA, 2000, 329 pages, $25.00.

Policy analysts and regional experts at the RAND Arroyo Center in Santa Monica, California, have undertaken the daunting task of creating a process model for identifying and predicting so-called ethnic conflicts. They acknowledge that the idea of predicting ethnic conflict has two basic flaws. First, the term that is currently widely used is a poor substitute for the broader term "communitarian intrastate strife" that might or might not have an ethnic dimension. In RAND's model, ethnicity is one component of conflict causes and accelerators. The second flaw, which the authors freely admit to, is that there are so many subjectively valued variables (they identify 56) in the prediction of conflict that no model can be fully predictive or universally applied.

The model consists of three stages. The first stage uses an ascriptive approach, which is a refined version of social psychologist Ted Gurr's perceived relative deprivation theory, to identify the potential for strife within a country. The RAND authors contend that Gurr's theory indicates only the potential for strife, not its likelihood.

The second stage of the model describes the change from potential to likely strife centering on the mobilization of a dissatisfied group to political action. The authors contend that the simple notion of being excluded or expelled from the process will not compel large groups to action and that several catalystic factors must be present. Such factors might include charismatic leaders, tipping events, access to resources, changes in the balance of power, or foreign influence.

The third stage of the model is the most critical. The model analyzes the state's capacity to accommodate the desires of a disenfranchised group and the strategic bargaining that must occur to allow peaceful resolution of potential conflict. …

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