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Article

Post-Conflict Processes and Religion: An Overview  

Nukhet Sandal

Religion was a relatively overlooked factor in the study of political science until the 21st century. Even when the focus on religion increased in the aftermath of 9/11, a majority of the scholarship still dealt with religion and violence. “Religion and peace” has arguably been a less popular topic, yet there is still a vibrant literature that has contributed to our understanding of religion and social dynamics, especially given the significant number of religiously inspired organizations that are active in postconflict processes, such as Network of Engaged Buddhists, Sant’Egidio, and American Jewish World Service. Religion can play a critical role in conflict resolution and negotiation, especially in settings where secular approaches fall short of resolving the tensions, and where religious actors are seen as more neutral than the political actors. Peacebuilding literature has also recognized the importance of religion. Every religious tradition has its own sources of nonviolence within itself, and under the right conditions, these sources can help with reconciliation, peacebuilding, and transitional justice. At the same time, involvement of religious actors in postconflict processes poses its own challenges. Religious actors are rarely fully neutral, their assistance usually comes with conditions attached, and their involvement in political processes can undermine their moral authority. In addition, there are religious leaders who work against reconciliation to protect their own status in conflict settings. Recognizing that it is difficult to measure the effectiveness of faith-inspired initiatives, more scholarship is needed to explore the dynamics of religious initiatives in postconflict processes. There are gaps especially when it comes to non-Christian actors’ involvement in peace processes, and how the faith-inspired initiatives of individuals differ from those of religious institutions and organizations.

Article

Modern Grand Strategic Studies: Research Advances and Controversies  

Thierry Balzacq and Mark Corcoral

Grand strategy offers an effective framework to understand and explain how and why a state interacts with other actors in a given way and how it combines various military, diplomatic, economic, and cultural instruments to achieve its ends in a largely coherent fashion. Yet, the term “grand strategy” conjures different meanings and attitudes, with some treating it as synonymous with strategy and foreign policy, thus raising questions about its relations with policy and politics. History teaches us that grand strategy remains a demanding enterprise, partly because of actors’ differential status and partly because its time horizon (mid to long term) subjects it to unforeseen conditions that threaten to derail it. However, does this make grand strategy impossible? Modern grand strategic scholarship is studded with tensions, but this must not eclipse research advances. In fact, the more disconnected controversies are from empirical contexts, the more they tend to become ends unto themselves. The first controversy relates to the definition of grand strategy and the best way to chart its landscape; the second deals with the sources of grand strategy (internal vs. external, material vs. ideational); and the third revolves around the feasibility of grand strategy in a capricious and fast-paced environment. These tensions are both defining, in the sense that they outline the state of the field, and productive, as they point toward future research avenues.

Article

Burundi: Assessing Military Institutional Reforms Post-Arusha  

Astrid Jamar and Gerard Birantamije

Military politics have been entangled with the trajectory of Burundian public institutions, experiences of violence, and the army formation. From 1994 to 2009, the peace process brought together different political parties, security forces, and rebel groups to negotiate ceasefires and major institutional reforms. Adopted in 2000, the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement contained some of the most ambitious and sophisticated security reforms. While most literature emphasizes mostly on the Arusha Peace Agreement, 22 agreements were signed by different sets of parties, including political parties and rebel groups during these 15 years of peace meditation. The Arusha Peace Agreement provides for complex security arrangements: (a) a strictly defined role, structure, and mandate of the army and other security forces; (b) sophisticated power-sharing arrangements for both leadership and composition of the army and other security forces; (c) demobilization, disarmament, integration, and training of armed forces; (d) transformation of armed groups into political parties; and (e) ceasefires. The peace talks integrated various armed political groups into Burundian institutions. Responding to four decades of violence and military dictatorship, these reforms of the military and other security forces aimed to disentangle the military from politics. Initially contested, the agreements shaped the reading of the historical contexts that justified these institutional military reforms. Indeed, provisions of these agreements also framed a narrative about violence and imposed fixed interpretations of political mobilization of violence. These imposed interpretations neglected key elements that enabled and, continue to enable, the political use of violence as well as the emergence of new forms of military politics. The main institutional approach adopted to tackle issues of inclusion and to correct imbalances in armed forces was the introduction of power-sharing arrangements based on ethnic dimensions. The formulation and further implementation of ethnic quotas reinforced the binary elements of ethnic identities, rather than promote a more fluid understanding that would appreciate intersecting elements, such as gender, political affiliation, and class and regional dimensions in the undertaking of power, alliance, and relations between executive and military institutions. Security reforms continue to affect the functioning of public institutions, with limited effects for disentangling politics and military.

Article

Arab-Israeli Wars and US Foreign Relations  

Seth Anziska

American policy toward the Arab-Israeli conflict has reflected dueling impulses at the heart of US-Middle East relations since World War II: growing support for Zionism and Israeli statehood on the one hand, the need for cheap oil resources and strong alliances with Arab states on the other, unfolding alongside the ebb and flow of concerns over Soviet influence in the region during the Cold War. These tensions have tracked with successive Arab–Israeli conflagrations, from the 1948 war through the international conflicts of 1967 and 1973, as well as shifting modes of intervention in Lebanon, and more recently, the Palestinian uprisings in the occupied territories and several wars on the Gaza Strip. US policy has been shaped by diverging priorities in domestic and foreign policy, a halting recognition of the need to tackle Palestinian national aspirations, and a burgeoning peace process which has drawn American diplomats into the position of mediating between the parties. Against the backdrop of regional upheaval, this long history of involvement continues into the 21st century as the unresolved conflict between Israel and the Arab world faces a host of new challenges.

Article

What Do We Know About Civil War Duration? A Bargaining Perspective  

David E. Cunningham

Civil wars vary greatly in duration—some end within months; others last for decades. What explains this variation? Civil wars drag on when no combatant can win a military victory and the various actors involved are unable, or unwilling, to reach a compromise agreement that resolves the war. Military victory does happen in civil war, but it is rare, so understanding why civil wars last as long as they do requires examining the barriers to negotiated settlement. Wars last longer when the parties involved perceive the war as less costly relative to peace and when the combatants are overly optimistic about how they will do in the war. Even when key decision-makers see the war as costly and are realistic about their chances of prevailing, negotiated settlements prove elusive if the parties cannot accept a division of the issues at stake or if the government or rebels are unable to trust the commitments the other side makes in a negotiation. Additionally, bargaining is more complicated when there are more combatants that must accept the terms of any agreement, and conflicts with more combatants last much longer than those with fewer. Many factors affect the bargaining environment, and these barriers to bargaining can explain why civil wars are on average quite long. International actions can alleviate some of the barriers and help combatants reach comprehensive settlements, as happened in the conflicts in Mozambique, El Salvador, Guatemala. In particular, peacekeeping and mediation strategies are effective at resolving wars sooner. International action in general is more effective, however, when the parties involved are interested in peace but need some help overcoming commitment or informational problems. These actions are much less successful when that interest is lacking. The current civil war in Syria has many of the factors identified as prolonging wars. It is an extremely fractionalized conflict, and many external actors are involved. Syria has a large majority population that has been historically excluded from political power and economically marginalized, and a minority government that has been dominant. These factors make reaching a comprehensive settlement very challenging and mean the war is likely to be very long-lasting.

Article

The United States and the “Troubles” in Northern Ireland, 1967–1998  

James Cooper

The relationship between the United States and the island of Ireland combines nostalgic sentimentality and intervention in the sectarian conflict known as the “Troubles.” Irish migration to the United States remains a celebrated and vital part of the American saga, while Irish American interest—and involvement—in the “Troubles” during the second half of the 20th century was a problematic issue in transatlantic relations and for those seeking to establish a peaceful political consensus on the Irish question. Paradoxically, much of the historiography of American–Irish relations addresses the social, economic, and cultural consequences of the Irish in America, yet the major political issue—namely the United States’ approach to the “Troubles”—has only recently become subject of thorough historiographical inquiry. As much as the Irish have contributed to developments in American history, the American contribution to the Anglo-Irish process, and ultimate peace process, in order to end conflict in Northern Ireland is an example of the peacemaking potential of US foreign policy.

Article

Israel-US Relations  

Olivia L. Sohns

Moral, political, and strategic factors have contributed to the emergence and durability of the U.S.-Israel alliance. It took decades for American support for Israel to evolve from “a moral stance” to treating Israel as a “strategic asset” to adopting a policy of “strategic cooperation.” The United States supported Israel’s creation in 1948 not only because of the lobbying efforts of American Jews but also due to humanitarian considerations stemming from the Holocaust. Beginning in the 1950s, Israel sought to portray itself as an ally of the United States on grounds that America and Israel were fellow liberal democracies and shared a common Judeo-Christian cultural heritage. By the mid-1960s, Israel was considered a strategic proxy of American power in the Middle East in the Cold War, while the Soviet Union armed the radical Arab nationalist states and endorsed a Palestinian “people’s wars of national liberation” against Israel. Over the subsequent decades, Israel repeatedly sought to demonstrate that it was allied with the United States in opposing instability in the region that might threaten U.S. interests. Israel also sought to portray itself as a liberal democracy despite its continued occupation of territories that it conquered in the Arab-Israeli War of 1967. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the rise of regional instability and radicalism in the Middle East following the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq and the Arab Spring of 2011, Israel’s expertise in the realms of counterterrorism and homeland security provided a further basis for U.S.-Israel military-strategic cooperation. Although American and Israeli interests are not identical, and there have been disagreements between the two countries regarding the best means to secure comprehensive Arab-Israeli and Israeli-Palestinian peace, the foundations of the relationship are strong enough to overcome crises that would imperil a less robust alliance.