in an Emerging Multi Lateral World
" ...Man's illusions are of all sorts and
kinds... The greatest of them all are those which cluster round the hope
of a perfected society, a perfected race, a terrestrial millennium... One of the illusions
incidental to this great hope is the
expectation of the passing of war. This grand event in human progress is always being confidently
expected, and since we are now all scientific minds and rational beings, we no longer
expect it by a divine intervention, but assign sound
physical and economical reasons for
the faith that is in us... (however) ...only when man has developed not merely a fellow feeling with
all men... when he is aware of them not
merely as brothers that is a fragile bond but as parts of
himself, only when he
has learned to live, not in his separate personal and communal ego-sense, but in a large
universal consciousness, can the phenomenon of war, with whatever weapons, pass out of his
life without the possibility of return... Meanwhile that he should struggle
even by illusions towards that end, is an excellent sign; for it shows
that the truth behind the illusion is pressing towards the hour when it
may become manifest as reality... " Sri
Aurobindo on the Passing of War
remarks in 1917 serve to set the frame for any discussion about conflict
resolution in that which has been described as
'the age of Empire'. From
the Hun and Genghis Khan, from
Adolf Hitler to
President Truman and
the Hiroshima bomb,
and now from Osma Bin Laden, the Twin Towers and President
Bush to Iraq, conflict continues and humankind
continues to strive to end conflict.
The problem with war is always with the 'victor', because he (or she) has
that superior force pays - and, sooner rather than later, there will be those who will
rise to show that they have learnt well the lesson that was taught. If as Churchill reportedly remarked, the farther you look back
into history, the further you can look forward, it will seem that we are faced
with the continuing prospect of conflicts and wars to end wars, till the end of time.
But then again, hopefully, Churchill may have been wrong in casting the future in the mould
of the past.
Meanwhile, conflict resolution experts multiply by the day. We have the
Initiative on Conflict Resolution and
on Negotiation at Harvard Law School, Roger Fisher's Conflict
Transcend and the Berghof Foundation, to name but a few.
And, there is no shortage of
literature about how conflicts may be resolved. Some consider it important that
we do not lose sight of the obvious:
"...Every dispute has a history; we have been sending messages
to them and they have been sending messages to us, even if only by silence or by a
professed refusal to negotiate. Positions have been staked out. Proposals have been made
and rejected. One thing we know for sure: if the conflict is continuing, whatever we have
been saying and doing so far has not worked. It has not produced the result we
want, or we would have turned our attention to other matters by now..." -
Roger Fisher, Elizabeth Kopelman &
Andrea Kupfer Schnieder, in
Beyond Machiavelli :
Tools for Coping With Conflict 1994
We have writings about
yes and negotiating agreement without giving in, which take pains to
point out that how you see the world depends on where you sit -
"...How you see the world depends on where you
tend to see what they want to see. Out of a mass of detailed information, they tend to
pick out and focus on those facts that confirm their prior perceptions and to disregard or
misinterpret those that call their perceptions into question. Each side in a negotiation
may see only the merits of its case, and only
the faults of the other side's. The ability to see the
situation as the other side sees it, as difficult as it may be, is one of the most
important skills a negotiator can possess. It is not enough to know that they see things
differently. If you want to influence them,
you also need to understand
empathetically the power of their point of view and to feel the emotional force with
which they believe in it. It is is not enough to study them like beetles under a
microscope; you need to know what it feels like to be a beetle...."
Again, experts are not slow to point out the need for experts.
They point out that 'parties rarely spend time
consciously trying to invent original ways of resolving their differences or
formulating principles that will appeal to both sides' and that ' most us do not know how - we are
untrained in the art of generating fresh ideas'
"...Sometimes, an important factor in changing the
course of an international negotiation may be the introduction of a creative perspective,
a new understanding of what may have seemed to be intractable conflict. Such a fresh
idea will often provide the kernel of a new question that can be asked of someone who, up
until now, has been saying 'no'...
"...Parties to a conflict tend to get
stuck because they have been going back and forth arguing
about the past and about the
merits of their respective positions. The debate has
taken on a stale quality, and new ideas are not being generated. Often, those involved
simply see no need for new ideas.
They know what they are
opposed to. They see their primary concern as having their views prevail. New ideas
are a threat to existing ideas. Inventing does not take place because parties are content
with the ideas they have. Or emotional involvement on one side of a conflict makes it
difficult to achieve the detachment necessary to think of solutions that reconcile the
interests of all parties....
Perhaps the most serious constraint
on creative thinking in a conflict is the official role of those involved in it. Having
authority puts a negotiator in the position where a freely invented option may be mistaken
by adversaries as an official position. There is a serious risk that she will be seen,
at least personally, as committed to accept an idea that she created or helped to create.
Something said in a creative context may later be treated as a concession by other
negotiators or by critics at home..
....A final reason for not coming up
with better ideas is that most us do not know how - we are untrained in the art of
generating fresh ideas.... few of those involved in a conflict ever spend much time
trying to invent better solutions for all concerned. Parties rarely spend time
consciously trying to invent original ways of resolving their differences or formulating
principles that will appeal to both sides..." - Roger Fisher from Harvard Law School, Andrea
Kupfer Schneider from Marquette Law School, Elizabeth Borgwardt from Stanford Center on
Conflict and Negotiation and Brian Ganson in
International Conflict, 1997
Yet others emphasise that a peace
process is not so much about what happens before an agreement is reached, but rather what
happens after it.
"...many peace agreements are fragile and the
'peace' that they create is usually the extension of war by more
civilised means... A peace agreement is often an imperfect compromise
based on the state of play when the parties have reached a 'hurting
stalemate' or when the international community
can no longer stomach
a continuation of the crisis. A peace process, on the other hand, is
not so much what happens before an agreement is reached, rather what
happens after it... the post conflict phase crucially defines the
relationship between former antagonists..." - Walter Kemp, Organisation for Security and
Co-operation in Europe, reviewing
the Peace: resistance and reconciliation' by Robert L.Rothstein,
This ofcourse opens up the
question as to what it is
that leads the so called 'international
community' to conclude that it can no longer
stomach a continuation of the conflict. The 'international community' is not
without its own 'security' interests, whether they be linked to the
control of oil
resources or nuclear non proliferation or
control of the currency in which world trade is conducted - and these
interests may not be unrelated to that
which the international community can no longer countenance at any particular time.
serve to illustrate the attempts by the 'international community' (read, by and
States) to manage conflicts. They also underline the political reality that 'a peace
process is not so much what happens before an agreement is reached, rather what
happens after it'. And we have seen the emergence of the 'earned
"..The intensity and severity of sovereignty-based
conflicts, their relationship to increasing levels of terrorism, and the
lack of effective legal norms and principles have given rise to the need for
a new approach to resolving sovereignty-based conflicts....The ability to determine the final status of the substate entity
years after the initial peace agreement provides an opportunity for
the parties to make a decision on final status at a time when
passions are not inflamed by an ongoing armed conflict. The approach
also permits a more rational, deliberative process, which may
involve the international community in some form. Similarly, the
involvement of the international community in institution building
benefits the state and substate entity by enabling the creation of
institutions necessary to ensure the stable operation of the
substate entity, either as a new state or as a province with
heightened autonomy. The creation of domestic institutions also
provides the state and the international community with an
additional point of contact to pressure the substate entity, which
facilitates the protection of legitimate interests, such as the
protection of minority rights, and responsible regional behavior...""
Again, conflicts with non state actors have special
dimensions which have received the
attention of the Rand Organisation amongst others.
"Coercion will be a critical foreign policy tool in crises
involving nonstate actors. The United States will turn to military force
because many non military forms of pressure, such as economic sanctions and
diplomatic efforts, are difficult to target against nonstate adversaries. At
the same time, crises will often involve issues that do not directly
implicate vital U.S. interests; more frequently, they will involve interests
perceived as peripheral to the American public, and will therefore demand
strictly limited, as opposed to overwhelming and brute, uses of force."
Characteristics that distinguish attempts to coerce nonstate
• Nonstate adversaries may lack identifiable and targetable
• Inaccurate intelligence estimates are particularly common.
• Nonstate adversaries may lack control over constituent elements.
• Indirect coercion is often difficult, unreliable, and counterproductive.
• Nonstate actors are adept at exploiting countermeasures to coercion.
Most of these problems are not unique to nonstate actors,
but they have shown themselves to be magnified in the nonstate
context. Coercion assumes an ability to hold some adversary interest at risk.
For a variety of reasons, the nonstate context complicates this core
assumption. Military forces and territory are less often vulnerabilities of
nonstate actors. The August 1998 missile attacks against terrorist financier
Usama bin Laden illustrate this problem. The target was bin Laden’s
“network,” but it was not clear what this comprised beyond the people
involved, because he had few assets associated with the network that were
vulnerable to military force...
Underestimating or misunderstanding nonstate adversary
motivations is particularly likely. Even if a nonstate actor is weak, its
motivations are likely to be strong, particularly when compared with those
of the coercing power. The perceived benefits of resisting coercive threats
are likely to be considerable. In civil war or ethnic conflict, the parties
will have already resolved to accept extremely high costs in pursuit of
their goals. In the case of religious or ideological movements, nonstate
organizations may be driven by intense desires to achieve
objectives. And in humanitarian crises, violence may stem from perceived
necessities of survival. In all of these situations, the United States is
likely to face adversaries highly motivated to absorb costs. Whereas nonstate crises will often implicate interests seen as peripheral to the
United States and its allies, they may implicate the highest stakes for
nonstate adversaries...." -
Coercing Non State Actors - the Challenge for the Future, Rand Corporation
A United States Institute for
Peace study in May 1999 on
How Terrorism Ends, observed -
*The nature of the grievance matters. Ethnically based terrorist campaigns can be harder to end decisively than politically based ones, because they often enjoy broader support among a population they seek to represent.
* The nature of the organisation putting forth the grievance
matters as well. Intelligence is important not only to prevent terrorist
attacks but also to understand how the organisation works and how its
decision making process can be affected.
* Political violence by itself can rarely achieve its aims, but it can sometimes do so in conjunction with less violent political action.
* By the same token, deterring terrorism and prosecuting terrorists may be insufficient to end terrorism,
especially when a large population supports the terrorists' cause.
In such situations, negotiated settlements may provide the only
* In Sri Lanka, the government appears to have concluded from its victory over the Maoist JVP that law enforcement and compulsion can end a terror campaign. However, the LTTE has a much broader base of support than the JVP ever did, and the LTTE is unlikely to go away simply through government-applied force.
* One of the most effective strategies at governments' disposal may be to split off pragmatists from radical
rejectionists. Such efforts can diminish public support for the terrorists and deny them a strong base from which to operate.
* In the cases of the IRA and the PLO, the initiation of political negotiations has not conclusively ended terrorism, but it has swung public support behind a peaceful solution and
helped diminish popular support for the terrorists.
* Making concessions to causes espoused by terrorists can arouse hostility from those who believe that terrorism is "being rewarded." Weak governments find it difficult to make such concessions.
* Peace overtures must be well-timed. Ideally, they should come at a time when the government is strong and the terrorist organization is undergoing a period of introspection. Good intelligence can make a difference in these cases.
*..So called 'get tough' measures against terrorist groups can
have unintended consequences. Trying to 'decapitate' a movement may radicalise
the whole movement or some splinter faction. assassinations and military
force can provoke a desire for revenge, and raids and arrests can reinforce
martial images, create mythologies of martyrdom, or feed paranoia and
secretiveness (which makes the movements even harder to penetrate for reasons
of either understanding motivations or foiling actions).."
*...In the event that organisations are primarily motivated by
a desire for recognition, how should policy makers respond? Should the
government recognise the organisations and eliminate their motivation for
terrorism? Since terrorist actions most often are considered newsworthy events
my media organisations, it is beyond governments' control whether the actions
gain attention or not. Governments can play an effective role, however,
influencing how terrorist events are portrayed to the public, and thus
(but not control) how the public interprets those events.
* Money and weapons flow across borders and supporters of
terrorism (if not the terrorists themselves) often have established bases in
other countries. Increasingly law enforcement efforts aimed at stemming
terrorism have an international component, and such a strategy will require more
And where conflicts relate to the
world, we also have research on constitutional models to help resolve conflicts. We have
studies on federalism,
confederalism and consociationalism. We have writings which ask
are federal solutions and others concerned with
between federalism and confederalism and yet others on
federalism and, of course, on the
The Canadian based Forum
of Federations provides an institutional platform to discuss federal models as the way
to resolve conflicts; and the UNESCO periodically brings together international experts to
examine at length the 'Implementation of the Right to Self Determination
as a Contribution to Conflict Prevention'.
Carnegie Project on Complex Power Sharing and Self Determination
seeks to research 'novel ways of overcoming
apparently insoluble self determination conflicts
through complex power sharing arrangements concluded and implemented
with international involvement.'
In the midst of all these outpourings, the words of
Sardar K.M.Pannikar, Indian Ambassador to China from 1948 to 1952, and later Vice
Chancellor, Mysore University in Principles and Practice of Diplomacy, 1956 help underline some age old constants -
"Foreign Ministers and diplomats presumably understand the permanent interests of
their country.. But no one can foresee clearly the effects of even very simple facts as
they pertain to the future. The Rajah of Cochin who in his resentment against the Zamorin permitted the Portuguese
to establish a trading station in his territories could not foresee that thereby he had
introduced into India something which was to alter the course of history. Nor could the German authorities, who, in their anxiety to create confusion and chaos
in Russia, permitted a sealed train to take Lenin and his associates across German
territory, have foreseen what forces they were unleashing. To them the necessity of the
moment was an utter breakdown of Russian resistance and to send Lenin there seemed a
superior act of wisdom...
'The public habit of judging the relations between states from what appears in the
papers adds to the confusion. It must be remembered that in international affairs things
are not often what they seem to be. ..A communique which speaks of complete agreement
may only mean an agreement to differ. Behind a smokescreen of hostile propaganda
diplomatic moves may be taking place indicating a better understanding of each other's
Sri Krishna, when he was being requested by Yudhistra to go as a special envoy to the
Court of the Kauravas, was asked by Draupadi what his purpose was in undertaking so
hopeless a mission. He replied,
'I shall go the Kaurava Court to present your case in the best light; to try and get
them to accept your demands, and if my efforts fail and war becomes inevitable we shall
show the world how we are right and they are wrong so that the world may not misjudge
All the secrets of diplomacy are contained in this statement of Sri Krishna...
'If my persuasion fails', said Krishna, I shall proclaim to the world your innocence
and their crime. I shall make the world understand that you are fighting only for your
There are but few cases in history where both the parties to a conflict do not claim
to have been forced into a defensive war. Whether the world accepts such a claim depends
entirely on the success or failure of diplomacy.
In the case of the Pandavas, Sri Krishna's diplomacy was supremely successful even to
the extent of causing dissensions among the Kaurava generals...''
But, then again, time does not stand
still. In the 1970's Arthur
Koestler wrote in
A Summing Up:
" If I were asked to name the most important date in the history and
prehistory of the human race, I would answer without hesitation 6 August 1945.
The reason is simple. From the dawn of consciousness until 6 August 1945, man
had to live with the prospect of his death as an individual; since the day when
the first atomic bomb outshone the
sun over Hiroshima, mankind as a whole has had to live with the prospect of its
extinction as a species. We have been taught to accept the transitoriness of
personal existence, while taking the potential immortality of the human race for
granted. This belief has ceased to be valid. We have to revise our
Today, 'mankind as a whole has had to live with the prospect of its
extinction as a species' and if our past record is anything to go by, it will
only be a question of time before enough of us will acquire the capacity to
annihilate ourselves as a species.
President Carter's National Security Adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski
warning in 1983 was perceptive -
".... the combination of demographic pressures and political unrest
will generate particularly in the third world, increasing unrest and
violence... The population of the world by the end of this century will have
grown to some 6 billion people.... moreover most of the increase will be
concentrated in the poorer parts of the world, with 85% of the world's
population by the end of this century living in Africa, Latin America and the
poorer parts of Asia....
Most of the third world countries... are likely to continue to suffer from
weak economies and inefficient government, while their increasingly literate,
politically awakened, but restless masses will be more and more susceptible to
demagogic mobilisation on behalf of political movements... it is almost a
certainty that an increasing number of third world states will come to possess
Terrorist groups may also before very long try to advance
their causes through a nuclear threat... the problems confronting Washington
in assuring US national security will become increasingly complex..." (Power
and Principle: Memoirs of the National Security Adviser, 1977-1981 -
adventures in Iraq, some 20 years later, show that we continue to struggle
'by illusions towards ending conflict'. That we should so struggle is, perhaps,
'an excellent sign; for it shows
that the truth behind the illusion is pressing towards the hour when it
may become manifest as reality.' But our illusions should not
divert us from paying attention to the words of Schumacher in
to the Perplexed -
"...In modern times there is no lack of
understanding of the fact that man is a social being and that 'No man is an
Iland, intire of it selfe' (John Dunne, 1571-1631). Hence there is no lack of
exhortation that he should love his neighbour - or at least not to be nasty to
him - and should treat him with tolerance, compassion and understanding. At the
same time, however, the cultivation of self knowledge
has fallen into virtually total neglect, except, that is, where it is the object
of active suppression.
That you cannot love your
neighbour, unless you love yourself; that you cannot understand your neighbour
unless you understand yourself; that there can be no knowledge of the 'invisible
person' who is your neighbour except on the basis of self knowledge - these
fundamental truths have been forgotten even by many of the professionals in the
Exhortations, consequently, cannot possibly have
any effect; genuine understanding of one's neighbour is replaced by
sentimentality, which ofcourse crumbles into nothingness as soon as self
interest is aroused...
goes openly on a journey into the interior, who withdraws from the ceaseless
agitation of everyday life and pursues the kind of training - satipatthana,
yoga, Jesus Prayer, or something similar - without which genuine self knowledge
cannot be obtained, is accused of selfishness and of turning his back on social
Meanwhile, world crises multiply and everybody
deplores the shortage, or even total lack, of 'wise' men or women, unselfish
leaders, trustworthy counsellors etc. It is hardly rational to expect such high
qualities from people who have never done any inner work and would not even
understand what was meant by the words..."
Mahatma Gandhi did
not put it differently -
"Non violence is the law of our species as violence
is the law of the brute. The
spirit lies dormant
in the brute, and he knows no law but that of physical might. The
dignity of man requires obedience to a higher law - to the strength of
the spirit.. The best and most lasting self-defence is self-purification... As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in
being able to remake the World, as in being able to remake ourselves. We must become the change we wish to see in the world...”
We ourselves must become the change we wish to see in the world.
Because, apart from everything else, our leaders are more representative of us
than we may sometimes care to admit. And
Dee Hock, Founding CEO, Visa International was
right when he declared -
"...In a very
real sense, followers lead by choosing where to be led. Where an
organizational community will be led is inseparable from the shared
values and beliefs of its members..."
And so was Jiddu Krishnamurthy
"We can stop war once a sense of complete responsibility pervades the
minds of one and all, including those not connected with a war but
concerned with the survival of humanity that in some way or the other
they have also contributed to the war.."
Each one of us has something to contribute. We need to speak to
each other from our hearts - and we need to listen to each other with our
hearts. We need to dig deep to find the common ground that unites our own heart
and mind in a spiritual whole - and unites us all.
And then - we need to match our words with our own deeds.