The correlation between cooperative initiation and receptive tendencies, however, is much weaker" (p. 32).
The overriding theme that emerges from all of the foregoing analytical models is the fact that although international conflicts and be effectively modeled and deconstructed in order to gain a better understanding of the precipitating factors and how they play out in real-world settings, they do not necessarily provide the insights needed to develop resolutions to these conflicts nor do they provide preemptive alternatives that could stop the conflict from starting in the first place. Indeed, epidemiologists use comparable techniques to understanding how disease processes evolve and spread throughout a human population, but different techniques are required to develop corresponding cures and treatments for their diseases. Similarly, the analysis of international conflicts that is needed to help decision-makers identify viable solutions will require an additional and supplemental type of analytical methodology.
Given the potential for death and destruction that goes hand-in-hand with wars, there is an important cost-benefit analysis that countries must make in formulating their decisions to take up arms and use a military option to prosecute their will on others. After all, the outcomes of wars are always uncertain even when everything seems to point to victory and the costs that are involved in military action mean that there is always a great deal at stake beyond the human toll wars exact. Therefore, the decision to engage in military action at any level, ranging the continuum from minor border incursions to full-scale world war, will ultimately be based on the perceptions of the country's leadership with respect to the external environment which may not be the same of those of its neighbors or outside observers. It is in this area that the various analytical tools discussed above can help outside observers gain a better understanding of how the belligerents involved perceived their environment. It is clear that any country that initiates military action believes it can benefit from the aggression in some way (whether to achieve permanent territorial gain, to probe the opponent's defenses, or simply as a way to "rattle the cage" and make a point), so this represents a good starting point for international conflict analysis. Determining what the military aggressor really wants can provide the information needed to develop potential resolutions to international conflicts that may be able to avoid bloodshed and establish long-term peace.
In many cases of international conflicts, though, despite the complexity of the environmental factors that are involved, the reasons for a conflict are readily apparent and do not necessarily require any type of in-depth analysis to understand. When these precipitating reasons are based on factors that lend themselves to resolution, it may be possible to forge compromises that will withstand the test of time. In many other cases, though, international conflicts involved longstanding issues that are not amenable to easy resolution, and some, such as the Palestinian-Israeli or North Korea-South Korean conflicts, have defied all resolution efforts by the international community.
These types of intractable conflicts demand solutions that may not be possible to achieve without an entire change of mindset on the part of the belligerents. The stated goal of many of Israel's neighbors, Iran in particular, is to destroy Israel; likewise, many countries in the Arab world feel the same way in varying degrees. In this environment, while the causes for conflicts are readily discernible, the barriers to their resolution can preclude the most well-intentioned efforts on the part of the international community. Indeed, it is disingenuous to believe that people can know the mind of God just as it is foolhardy on the part of the international community to think that it is possible to persuade people to feel differently just by understanding what is causing their problems. Nevertheless, these are the very forces fueling conflicts between nations, as the Balkanization process in Europe so clearly showed, and conflicts based on powerful religious, cultural, political and socioeconomic factors all combine to create a powder keg in many regions of the world today.
Despite these constraints, the analytical methods described above and other game models can and have been used successfully as models of international conflict analysis in ways that can help identify potential solutions. For instance, Beach et al. conclude that, "In these and other essays it can be seen that game theory offers a framework for some level of analysis that might shed light on international conflicts" (2000, p. 33). As an example, Beach and his associates describe a vignette involving conflict over water resources, a particularly timely issue in many parts of the world, with three alternatives being available to the stakeholders that are involved as follows:
1. They can work unilaterally within the basin (or state) to increase supply -- through wastewater reclamation, desalination, or increasing catchment or storage -- or decrease demand, through conservation or greater efficiency in agricultural practices.
2. They can cooperate with the inhabitants of other basins for a more efficient distribution of water resources. This cooperation usually involves a transfer of water from the basin with greater resources.
3. They can make no changes in planning or infrastructure and face each cycle of drought with increasing hardship. This is the option most often chosen by countries that are less developed or are racked by military strife. (Beach et al., 2000, p. 33).
One of the strengths of this model is the universality of the alternatives for any type of conflict resolution between countries (i.e., work unilaterally, cooperate, do nothing). It is in this fashion that the analysis of international conflicts may be able to help identify potential resolutions. For instance, according to Beach and his colleagues, "These options are equally applicable to the problems facing inhabitants of a single basin that includes two or more political entities. Each can be modelled. Although the last alternative may seem unreasonable, game theoretic models can help to explain how nations may make choices based on their underlying interests and the strategic structure of the game itself" (2000, p. 33). By understanding international conflicts from this perspective, these authors suggest that it will be far easier to model potential alternatives that will provide the long-term solutions that are needed for peaceful and mutually beneficial outcomes. This aspect of international conflict resolution is described by Beach et al. thusly: "The modeller can then try to make prescriptions in such cases to change the contexts so as to lead to more efficient and welfare enhancing outcomes" (2000, p. 33).
To illustrate how this approach operates, Beach and his colleagues cite the example of any type of international conflict and its contributing factors and how game theory can be used to analyze the process:
1. In international contexts, each sovereign party is free to break any agreement at little cost. Hence any engineered solution must be sensitive to the stability aspects of the proposed outcomes.
2. For cooperation to occur, the parties must have some incentive which can justify the cooperation.
In order for the environment to be conducive to cooperation, though, there are other preconditions including a mutual acceptable by all participants that:
1. The joint cost or benefit is partitioned such that each participant is better off compared to a non-cooperative outcome;
2. The partitioned cost or benefit to any subset of participants (in the cooperative solution) are preferred by the subset to any other possible outcome they can guarantee themselves; and,
3. In the real world of international relations, it also must be that all the costs are allocated (Beach et al., 2000, p. 33).
These best case outcomes, though, are rarely achieved without other complications, many of which are impossible to predict and difficult to model. Indeed, who could have foreseen the catalyst that actually sparked World War I? Likewise, as chaos theory holds, the mere flapping of a butterfly's wings in one part of the world can have unforeseen effects on global weather patterns and ultimately human history, models are useful but potentially unreliable in the analysis of international conflicts, particularly when information is faulty or otherwise flawed in some fashion. This need for timely and accurate information is a prerequisite to developing the analysis of how the participants view their respective environments, and this is a challenging enterprise by any measure.
Beyond these challenges to the analysis of international conflicts is the underlying factor of the human capacity to hold grudges, yearn for revenge in the name of justice and resort to violence to achieve their goals. These types of hostilities are more resistant to international intervention, and may require more regionalized or localized responses, and in developing parts of the world where conflicts may be more prevalent, these efforts will likely be constrained in their effectiveness due to a lack of resources available for these purposes. Funding by international and nongovernmental organizations for these local efforts may end up simply providing weapons and other military material that will help them escalate the conflict. After all, money is fungible…