Sunday, November 25, 2007

Evolution, International Conflict, Understanding & Survival

When Science is lamed by greed in the Energy sector, the resultant revelations and understanding extending into the social and spiritual realms necessary for evolutionary survival are denied. The result in this broken, repeating, Unlearned, record of the 'rise and fall' of civilizations will be the source of another future legend and myth.
Understanding the Area of Mutual Agreement and International Conflict:
A Project of Understanding Inc. in the 1960's - A practical approach to civilization's most urgent problem

The Area of Mutual Agreement

It is only necessary to read the front page of any metropolitan daily newspaper, to realize that our society is undergoing basic changes at a rate that can only be described as revolutionary. Social concepts and postulates which, for centuries, have been considered indisputable, are now being questioned, ignored or openly defied. Respect for all forms of authority is rapidly diminishing.
Many philosophers and statesmen have begun to fear that the entire fabric of society may break down, plunging the world into unimaginable chaos, and greatly increasing the probability of ultimate nuclear extermination. Whether this fear is a valid one, is itself a subject of controversy, yet thousands of highly educated and experienced men, in positions of leadership, are working, sometimes almost desperately, to stem the tide of change and to bolster in one way or another, our apparently sagging social structure. Unfortunately, most of these men are specialists in relatively narrow fields, and their efforts are devoted primarily to coping with the symptoms of change rather than determining the nature of the problem which brings it about. Federal Reserve Board Chairman Arthur Burns admitted, a few months ago, that, "The rules of economics are not working quite the way they used to." The full truth is that few, if any of the rules of society are likely, ever again, to work exactly as they used to, and the present danger is that, unless the reasons become better understood, the rules may never work at all. It is not only desirable therefore, but imperative, to consider first, the great basic deficiency of society from which most of its problems arise.
The Social Science has been defined as, "The study of the relationship of man to his fellowman, and of the means by which that relationship may be made more successful, more productive and more enduring. Colleges and Universities list courses in social science, and governments spend billions of dollars and hours of effort upon it. The fact remains however that, as yet, no genuine scientific foundation has ever been established for this study. It has developed only as an art, rather than the science which it is called, and which it must become if it is to furnish practical solutions to the present and future problems of mankind.
Most leaders, and many would-be leaders of men, formulate their own doctrines concerning the proper attitude and actions of man towards his fellow-man. Each of these doctrines, if published will attract followers. In some cases the followers may be few, while in other cases entire nations or races may become eager and devout followers. Yet those who follow each leader do so primarily because of the esthetic or the emotional appeal of the doctrine, rather than because of any tested and proven merit. Thus, throughout the ages, an ever changing series of more-or-less random social experiments have been conducted by those whose public position or political power has enabled them to influence the thoughts and actions of their neighbors, their nation or their race. Some of these social experiments have been partly or wholly successful, others have been total failures, and some, for example, Nazism, Fascism, have brought terrible tragedy and destruction to whole races of people. Yet none of them, successful or otherwise, have contributed significantly to the science of human relationship, because none of them were designed from, or built upon, any foundation of universally accepted fact, or even belief. Unfortunately, no such foundation has ever existed for the social arts, and they can never become a science until a foundation of mutual agreement, however small it may be in the beginning, has been established and documented.
If we consider the branch of knowledge and inquiry usually known as the Physical Science, we find it to be a true science in that the area of mutual agreement has long since been determined and documented. The process through which the documentation was achieved was not a natural or automatic one, it required planning and dedication on the part of those who carried it out. The beliefs of scientist in the field were compared with the beliefs of others. If a given postulate was accepted by all, that fact was documented, and where differences of opinion existed, specific tests were devised, and are still being devised to determine the relative merits of the differing theories. Since the postulates upon which such tests are based have been accepted in advance by all concerned, all are equally bound by the results of the tests and have accepted them, at least until some still better theory, or better tests have been formulated. Consequently, there has never been a war, or even a major feud which resulted from any difference of belief in the physical science. It stands upon a foundation of mutual agreement, and has a built-in, method of settling disputes and resolving differences.
In the social arts, as we have pointed out, the area of mutual agreement, while it is certainly large and general, since there are far more similarities between all men than differences, has never been specifically defined or documented. Therefore, there is no foundation from which mutually acceptable tests or means of determination can be formulated.
When large numbers of people, and sometimes whole nations or races, are led to adopt basic suppositions and beliefs that differ substantially from those of others, a constantly increasing friction is likely to develop between the groups. Since there are no adequate or accepted means of testing the relative merits of the opposing concepts, the heat of emotion generated by the continuing friction may, and frequently does, lead to open warfare.
The tragedy and the futility of warfare lie in the fact that it cannot determine the relative merits of the conflicting ideologies it can only demonstrate the relative fighting abilities of the participants! No matter how violent or how prolonged the war, and no matter who may be the victor, there will still have been no approach to a solution of the problems or the differences that brought about the fighting. In a few months or a few years, when the contenders have recovered somewhat from their wounds, they will be ready to fight again! The winner usually learns nothing from such encounters, and if the loser learns anything, it will only be how to avoid the worst of his military errors! In every war, both sides suffer far more loss and damage than would have been incurred by either in accepting the principles of the other.
So long as a civilization possesses only simple weapons of limited destructive power, it can tolerate, and it may survive these periodic acts of tragic nonsense. Millions of innocent persons may meet violent and untimely death, and hundreds of years of patient human effort may be wiped out by the passing whim of one leader. Still the race, and at least some part of its culture, will survive, to begin again the seemingly endless struggle toward peace and security.
When weapons of total destruction come into being however, the situation changes, for no civilization and no race can survive the holocaust of the weapons now being created. It is clear that the only choice now left to mankind is Hamlet's choice-"To be, or not to be."

Every reasoning individual, every parent and every leader of men, must now ask himself this question, "Will I leave to my children, and to the children of those who look to me for guidance, a world filled with beauty and opportunity, as is their rightful heritage? Or will their their charred and broken bodies be strewn about a burned out planet, orbiting the sun as a perpetual memorial to the ultimate failure of logic and reason?" Let no man make the tragic mistake of thinking that the problems of mankind may somehow solve themselves, if only we can manage to ignore them long enough, or that we can safely delegate to others, the responsibility of their solution.
For untold centuries man has cried "Peace Peace!" and there has been no peace. Thousands of intelligent and dedicated men have devoted their lives to the search for peace, and uncounted millions have fought to the death for it. It is time we faced the fact that peace can never be reached through any direct approach. It is not as gold, which can be obtained by continued digging, nor is it a treasure which can be had at once, if only one knows where to look! Peace is simply the automatically resulting by-product of complete understanding between man and man, between state and state, and between all men and God. When such understanding exists, there is no need to search or to work for peace, it exists automatically, but until understanding has been achieved, no amount of effort for peace can ever be successful. Let us therefore, direct our thoughts and our efforts toward the goal of complete understanding. While this goal may, as yet, be somewhat beyond the reach of man, it is only to the degree in which it is approached that we can find peace.
As a first step in the achievement of world understanding, we must begin, for the first time in the history of this planet, to create the only foundation upon which a true social science, or any other true science can be built. There are no obstacles except the magnitude of the task, and its great success in its application to the physical science, should demonstrate to everyone how well it works! Let us consider therefore, the following proposal.
Some presently existing international organization should be enlisted, or a new one created if necessary, for the purpose of sponsoring a world wide congress, composed of representatives of every major and, insofar as may be practicable, every minor nation, race, ideology and philosophy. In the ideal case there would a representation of every group of people whose members have any thought patterns which are common to the group. The delegates from each nation, race or ethnic group shall be chosen only by the group which they are to represent, and shall be persons who are fully aware of the basic thinking of the group. The congress shall have one purpose only.. To determine and to document, through the minutes of the meeting, all of those principles, postulates and rules or methods of procedure which are found by all of the delegates, to be generally accepted as valid principles of the social relationship of mankind. No attempt shall be made by any individual or group to influence the thinking, or to mould the opinion of any other individual or group, since the purpose of the congress is not to determine what the people or the world should think, but only to discover what they do think! Any suggestion or postulate which; after brief discussion, is found to be unacceptable by any delegate; shall immediately be dropped from consideration, and the next suggestion shall be taken up.
(If, however, the majority of the delegates find the item to be acceptable and it is rejected by a minority, a note will be made describing the discarded principle, and the reasons given, if any, by those who rejected it. Although no reasons need be given for the rejection, the notes may prove helpful to any subsequent congress which may be held for the purpose of enlarging, updating or amending the original document. In any event, they should prove helpful in the understanding of the thought patterns of the various groups.)
A number of sample postulates should be prepared in advance of the first formal meeting, but after these have been considered, each delegate, in turn, shall have the right, and the duty, to pro pose additional items for consideration by the assembly. Each suggestion shall have a direct bearing upon the relationship of man to his fellowman and/or upon the means by which that relationship may be made more successful, more productive or more enduring. They shall be stated in the simplest possible terms so that they may readily be understood by all. Each suggestion shall be individually considered, and accepted or rejected by a vote of the delegates. Those postulates or suggestions which are accepted shall be recorded as documented and recognized factors in the social science. For convenience and order in making the suggestions, they should be grouped into specific areas of human needs, human desires, human relationship, ecological requirements etc. They should begin, in each of the fields, with the simplest proposals or postulates that can be conceived and expressed, since a foundation must be built upon the ground, and not at some distance above it, (as has heretofore been our habit in any approach to the social science.)
In the area of human needs, for example, the following postulate might be offered, "Resolved that it is more desirable that all persons should have available to them, a sufficient amount of nourishing food, than that most of them should suffer constantly from hunger and malnutrition." (Note that this is purely an academic question, and its acceptance would not bind the delegates to any course of action whatever, but would only establish the validity of the principle. At first, such a proposal might seem to be so obvious as to be ridiculous, yet the fact remains that its universal acceptance has never been tested or documented. If it were accepted, (and it probably would be if the proposal were made at a time when the assembly had been without food for some hours) it would then become a recognized and documented principle, and the way would be opened for other equally simple and basic suggestions as to possible means for the implementation of the first. It should always be remembered however, that the purpose of the congress is not to solve the problems of society, but only to create a tool with which those problems might successfully be approached.
At first, progress would be slow as the delegates struggled with the unfamiliar task of breaking down their ideas and beliefs into the simplest possible expressions, but would soon be discovered that the more simply the concept was expressed, the more probable its acceptance by the assembly. (A fact which has long been forgotten by our politicians, diplomats, and even most of our statesmen.) As the number of building blocks in the foundation grew, one by one, and as the delegates began to realize, most of them for the first time, the remarkable similarity in each other's thinking, when reduced to fundamentals, the confidence, the enthusiasm and the rate of progress would steadily increase.
In the area of human relationship, the beginning postulate might be, "Resolved, that it is better that man should live in peace and cooperation with his neighbor, than that his works and his goods should be destroyed, and he should be maimed or killed in battle with his fellowman." Such a postulate might, or might not be accepted, but if it were, then other simple concepts leading to implementation might be considered.
Such an approach to the social science may seem to be childishly over-simplified, and indeed it is, but if we are ever to succeed in building a true science, we must begin at the beginning, and we have never yet done so. A similar process was employed in the development of the physical science, and its success speaks for itself.
When the congress has completed it's deliberations, when all principles, rules and methods of procedure that can be by the delegates have been considered and voted upon, the resulting document shall be translated into all of the principal languages of the world, and made available to all people as the foundation document and reference work of the social science.
The preliminary study which has led to this proposal, has indicated that the minimum number of delegates required for an acceptable congress, (provided that each delegate was in fact chosen by those whom he is to represent) would be of the order of 1,000, and that the time required for the completion of the primary document world be about one year. The overall cost of the congress, (Aside from the cost of selecting delegates, which would cheerfully be borne by the groups making the selection) would be about $20 million, a sum which, to the individual may seem large, but which, if distributed among the population of even a single country such as the United States, would amount to less than ten cents per person (Not a very large investment when one considers that the welfare of everyone, and the continued existence of civilization, almost certainly depends upon our ability to develop some from of social format capable of easing tensions and lessening friction between nations, and between the various ethnic groups.)
The organization which sponsors this proposal should conduct additional studies for the purpose of formulating more specific figures as to the largest practical number of delegates, the time required, and the cost. The study should also include the most desirable location for the convention, the logistics of travel and the maintenance of the delegates, the linguistic problems etc. Before any action is taken to implement the proposal, the plan should be publicised throughout the world, through the medium of newspapers, radio, television etc. It should be discussed in the United Nations Assembly and in other international forums. Such wide publicity would be neither difficult to obtain, if the proper approach were made. There are many persons in key positions in the communications systems of the world, who are well aware of the critical position of this civilization, and who are willing to do whatever may be done to ease the tension, or to find solutions to the problems.
Suggestions for the successful implementation of the proposal should be solicited from all parts of the world, by the agency which is chosen to coordinate the preliminary phases. There should be constant emphasis upon the simple fact that this proposal is not an attempt to change the thinking or the actions of anyone in any way, but only a mutual attempt to discover and to chart the areas in which everyone's thinking is already the same!
During the past few decades, there has been so much stress placed upon the points of disagreement among the various nations, races and ethnic groups, that the illusion has been created that all is disagreement, and that common grounds, if they exist at all, must be so small as to furnish no basis for understanding or for negotiation. If this were actually true, then obviously, there could never be a social science, and there would be no point in wasting time and effort in the attempt to create one! Actually, of course, the opposite is true. Any person who has travelled widely throughout the world, meeting and becoming truly acquainted with people of all nations and races, inevitably becomes aware of the great similarity in the thought patterns, the aspirations, the needs, the hopes and the fears of all peoples of the earth. It soon becomes obvious that the area of mutual agreement is so much greater than the points of disagreement, that is the former were known and documented, the latter would shrink into insignificance by comparison.
The proposal would, by its very discussion and implementation, tend to bring all classes of people closer together because, for the first time in history, they would all be engaged in a mutual enter prize which would open new avenues of understanding, but which would not pose any threat to their present thought patterns, their present habits or their present way of life.
(This proposal is the result of more than six years of deep study and careful analysis. While it is not presented as a magic panacea for the world's ills, we feel that it could serve as an excellent tool or instrument through which many of those ills might successfully be treated. The concept has proven its merits for may years in the progress of the physical science. It should serve equally well in the progress of the social science.)

Understanding International Conflict
by Joseph S. Nye, Jr.
Addison Wesley Longman, Inc., New York, 1997
ISBN 0-321-01101-5
Review Copyright © 1998 Garret Wilson
September 29, 1998, 6:00pm; September 30, 1998, 3:30pm

How do you decide which book serves as a good introduction of a particular subject, if that subject is completely unfamiliar to you to begin with? I personally use several criteria. First, if I am taking a formal academic course on the subject, I check the syllabus to see which book(s) are mentioned most frequently. Then, examining the book itself, I am impressed with those books that cover a wide range of aspects, make generalizations while at the same time presenting objections and alternatives to the ideas given, are understandable, short, and assume nothing is known by the reader about the subject. In the field of international relations, I find Understanding International Conflicts by Joseph S. Nye, Jr. meets almost all of these criteria.
Although the "conflicts" part of the title may lead you to assume that the book covers only one aspect of relations between states, namely disagreements, wars, and other conflicts, Nye’s work covers a broad range of topics dealing with international relations in general. Indeed, history seems to bear out (see Guns, Germs, and Steel for more information on the pre-state aspects of human conflicts) that the relationships between states largely consist of conflicts and their resolutions; by enumerating and dissecting international conflicts and their reasons, one can start to form a broader framework, or theory about how states interact and how conflicts begin. In this aspect, I found Nye’s assertion that his work is a "dialog between theory and history" (ix) to be quite accurate, which is in my opinion one of the book’s strengths which makes it accessible to those with limited knowledge both of world history and international relations theory.
Nye begins with a quick explanation of three forms of international compositions which in itself may come as a surprise to the many who have just assumed that there have always been countries similar to those of recent times and that they all interacted as they do today. In reality, the world imperial system illustrated by such examples as the Roman Empire is quite different than the feudal system of the middle ages (think Robin Hood) where peasants had certain obligations to certain lords or religious leaders (compare the economic situations in Economics Explained) that were had a separate existence from the political interactions of political rulers such as monarchs.
The system most important in contemporary times is the anarchic system of states where there are many independent political entities when have boundaries marking a specific geographical region. Moreover, these states have more or less complete control (in theory) of what happens within their borders and do not have to answer to a higher political organization – hence the "anarchy." Modern international relations theory seeks to describe how the elements of this anarchical system "live" with each other, if there is no higher authority than that held by each state over its territory.
There are several approaches to describing how states interact; the two general positions covered by Nye are the realist and liberal approaches (4). Basically, realists see all interaction as being performed by and among the states themselves, with war being the dominant theme. Liberals, on the other hand, stress the fact that there are various other factors, such as international institutions (the United Nations, and Non-Government Organizations, for example), that influence relations between countries. The important point that Nye makes here and throughout the book is that neither position is completely accurate; the actual situation that exists encompasses aspects of both realist and liberal world views.
After starting with that fundamental bit of theory, Nye begins analyzing historical conflicts by examining the Peloponnesian War, a conflict between the city-states of fifth-century Greece. Nye tries to use this as a jumping-off point to more recent conflicts and furthermore refers back to the situation throughout the book. The situation itself, despite Nye’s "short version of a long story" (9), is a bit complicated, so I didn’t read it closely enough to be able to give a summary. I found that the details can be ignored without anything being lost from the majority of Understanding International Conflicts.
In analyzing international conflicts, the concept of morality inevitably comes up. Nye explains three major views concerning ethics in international relations. Skeptics say that what we normally consider "morals" on an individual basis has no meaning at the state level. In other words, "might makes right" as the hackneyed expression has it. This outlook seems quite bleak; in fact, Nye dismisses it completely in its pure form. He presents other options: state moralists believe that the actions of a state represent the composite morals of that state’s population, and cosmopolitans tend to give less attention to the state overall and instead look at world policies as being justified or not by whether the actions fit individual moralities – in other words, individual moralities are elevated directly to international actions (19-24). Nye here sometimes reverts to such terms as "realist" and "liberal" which, although they do not refer to views on morality specifically, realists tend to be more on the skeptic side of the scale, while liberals lean towards the other.
Having covered these basic terms and concepts (and attempted to set the tone with a specific albeit remote event in history), Nye turns towards the twentieth century. Before analyzing any events, however, he sets forth three levels on which an event can be analyzed: Kenneth Waltz’s the individual, the state, and the international system (29). I personally found these levels of analysis one of the most interesting and potentially the most useful parts of the book; these concepts are later used to examine World War I, World War II, and several other conflicts.
Starting from the top, the international system level looks at causation based upon the situations of different countries (geographic location, foreign alliances) as a whole. The state (or domestic) level, on the other hand, analyzes events by looking inside countries on a state-by-state basis: whether a certain country’s economic was doing well, for example. Lastly, the individual level takes into consideration the effects of the actual people involved, including the personalities of rulers. In discussing the international system level, Nye brings up the difference between structure and process (30). Structure refers to the distribution of power (e.g. the structure of the Cold War was bipolar, with two superpowers existing). Process refers to how these units interact (e.g. nuclear threats between superpowers during the Cold War). These two concepts are not discussed as such at length in the book, but their use in analysis is implied and important during the discussions.
Having dispensed with a potpourri of theoretical terms, Nye applies them to three major events in recent history: World War I, World War II, and the Cold War. In general, Nye does not assume you have an extensive knowledge of history – as long as you can put those three events in order, and know more or less when they occurred, you shouldn’t get lost during his recounting. Nye does an excellent job of explaining the actions and conditions that led to each of these major events, interspersing them with appropriate dates (but not too many), all the while applying the theoretical concepts already covered.
Even thought the first two chapters are mostly theory, while the rest of the book is mostly history, Nye stays true to his commitment of weaving a mixture of the two. In discussing World War I, Nye explains the concept of balance of power (50), which can confusingly be used to mean the status quo, the action of keeping other countries from gaining power over others, or especially when referring to the Cold War, a multipolar system in which two or more superpowers take actions and positions that those of the other(s).
Of course, power itself can be ambiguous. In short, power is the ability to do things and to control others" or, according to Robert Dahl, the ability to get others to do what they otherwise would not do (51). Since knowing exactly what the other would do without your "power" is sometimes difficult, if not impossible, countries may measure their power in technology, resources, or military.
Getting to the thick of historical analysis, Nye uses the three levels of analysis to determine the causes of World War I. At the system structural level, Nye sees World War I resulting from the rise of German power and the increased rigidity in the alliances between European countries. The processes he recognizes includes rising nationalistic tendencies that overrode normal international interactions.
At the domestic level, Nye analyzes events occurring inside countries. It is at this level which Lenin’s argument (which Nye rejects, with sound reasoning) that the war was caused by financial capitalists. Nye prefers instead to look at social problems in German society. At the individual level, many of the leaders were incompetent.
Both of these latter levels of analysis, the individual and the domestic levels, seem much less useful for World War I than they do for World War II. In the most recent World War, it is quite easy to see the influence of one individual, Adolf Hitler, the cause of many calling World War II, "Hitler’s War" (83). It is also to read domestic-level economic collapses and internal US isolationism. When analyzing on the system level, it is tempting to see World War II conditions as simply extensions of those present in World War I – in other words, "World War I did not solve the German problem" (88). In short, it is in the Nye’s analysis of World War II that I personally find the three levels of analysis, including structure/process analyses, most interesting and relevant.
In both of these conflicts, Nye asks the question, "was war inevitable?" It doesn’t take long to see that Nye’s answer to this will always be, "no, but it was extremely likely." He makes the distinction between inevitable and overdetermined, the latter of which means that there are several causes, each of which could be significant (65). To illustrate how war becomes more or less likely as time passes, with new alternatives coming or going away, Nye presents a "funnel of choices," which shows that, at any certain time, war could have been avoided but that option was more or less likely by the available choices at any particular time.
Nye then turns to an analysis of the Cold War, considering, for example, such questions as who caused the Cold War conditions to occur? While traditionalists see the Soviets as causing the Cold War, revisionists see US actions as bringing those conditions about, and postrevisionists claim that no one was to blame, Nye predictably explains that the actual conditions (like most of international relations analysis and economy, it seems) are a product of all of these theories (100-101). He does, however, describe Roosevelt’s and Stalin’s policies, which shed some light on the situation, and the levels of analysis used before are again useful in the study of this era of history.
In the last chapters, Nye examines various smaller events in recent history, explaining such terms as sovereignty and discussing instances in which intervention is necessary. (As usual, there are different schools of thoughts on each of these subjects.) Nye also explains changes that have come about since the end of the Cold War. His historical explanations are, as usual, quite good and accessible to those with limited knowledge.
The last part of the book, however, does not seem to have the punch that the earlier parts do. On a system level, this could be because more recent conflicts have not been as widespread and all-encompassing as the earlier events – indeed, they have been more regional in scope. On a domestic level, this could be because theorists have not had enough time to fully analyze the events to such an extent as those of previous decades. Finally, on an individual, maybe Nye was just getting a bit tired during writing – or maybe I was getting a bit tired during reading. Most likely, as Nye would point out, it’s probably a mixture of all of these.
Is it inevitable that you will find this book useful in your education of international relations? No. But highly likely. Nye has produced a good introductory text that is short, clear, and reasonably complete for even those without a strong knowledge of international relations – you could say that your finding Understanding International Conflicts useful is not inevitable, but surely overdetermined.