Civil War: Political Violence and Robust Settlements
August 8, 2002 7:01 PM   Subscribe

Civil War: Political Violence and Robust Settlements -- an article from the Santa Fe Institute Bulletin about game theoretical approaches combined with on the ground field studies to analyze war and conflict. The article centers around work (Forging Democracy From Below: Insurgent Transitions in South Africa and El Salvador | Insurgent Collective Action and Civil War in El Salvador) done by Elisabeth Jean Wood, an NYU professor of political science with a background in physics. "The reason to study violence and suffering," says Wood, "is to understand its origins, processes, andâ?"ideallyâ?"to contribute to its cessation."
posted by kliuless (3 comments total)
Just read Profscam, which scoffs at adding quantitative measures to social analysis ... but this researcher's suggestion that the peasants are rebelling out of a sense of pride, not just out of desire for material gain, certainly rings true given my contact with Central Americans.
posted by sheauga at 2:47 PM on August 9, 2002

that's what impressed me about it, was that her research wasn't so much quantitative as it was emperical!
The work was time-consuming, involving open-ended questions, often interviewing the same people over and over until a clear picture emerged. "Getting people's trust, cross-checking stories with other sources, was demanding, but always essential," Wood says. "It's not an easy research method, but for some questions and circumstances it's the only one."
although still very analytical :) kind of reminds me of the watson institute's critical oral history projects.
posted by kliuless at 3:22 PM on August 9, 2002

Given all the talk currently about a "post-Saddam" Iraq, it's rather remarkable these articles about dealing with people who rebel out of a sense of wanting to be a participant in history are sparking no comments whatsoever. There's a reason that the covert wars in Afghanistan are the ones that came back to bite us rather than the wars in Central America ... lessons learned, anyone?

Bruce Baugh has some rather interesting things to say about the topic of "humiliation."

"Since when do humiliated people become more tractable?" Possibly I'm just projecting from my own personal experience of the world, but I've never found that humiliating others helps me get anywhere in the long run, nor have I found that being humiliated made me inclined to admit defeat or accept the agenda my humiliator wanted to foist on me. Even the dedicated submissives I know respond poorly to humiliation outside fairly controlled circumstances.

It's not like I think that militant Islamist dreams are obtainable or desirable if they were obtainable. I agree with those who say there's a clash of cultures going on, and feel that it's both necessary and moral to take a lot of action to ensure that nothing like the events of last 9/11 happen again. But if I read history correctly, an important part of really successful long-term response to aggressive tyranny and barbarism is genuine concern for the peoples involved. I don't see that folks who are driven by a desire to humiliate their enemies are likely to come up with the appropriate equivalent of a Marshall Plan, or to think clearly enough to avoid the kind of ill-considered thinking that leads to a Gallipoli or a Market-Garden."
posted by sheauga at 6:46 PM on August 9, 2002

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