- Malcolm X
We are in the process of adding an "Intractable Conflict in the News" section to Beyond Intractability that is intended to serve two purposes. The first is to better illuminate the many ways in which society's efforts to successfully grapple with its tough problems are being limited by its inability to deal with a broad range of intractable conflict-related problems. We also want call attention to the fact that efforts to deal with these problems will require a synthesis of the core areas and expertise of the peacebuilding and conflict resolution fields with a much broader array of insights from a wide range of adjacent fields.
To do this, we have started (and we hope the BI community will help us expand) a blog that highlights insightful reports from quality news organizations, provocative opinion pieces, and the many books and reports upon which these articles are often based. In highlighting these materials, we will include a short introduction that explains why we think that a particular publication merits consideration in this context. Our hope is that the materials will promote personal reflection and, on occasion, initiate a BI-based conversation using our "Comment" system.
In terms of organization, we have initially focused on three topics that collectively go to the core of some of today's most important and intractable public policy conflicts.
One section focuses on the "hyper-partisanship" problem. While the problems of excessive partisanship — and associated diminished problem-solving abilities — have long been lamented, there is good reason to believe (at least in the United States) that they are becoming ever more serious. The problem seems to arise when political leaders and their constituents become so focused on "winning" that it becomes impossible to pursue policies that seek to equitably balance the interests of all. In so doing, these dynamics can make it impossible to make use of a great many of the insights that lie at the core of the peace and conflict fields. In this blog, our focus is on materials that help us understand the many things that are going wrong and how they might be corrected. (While, as a U.S.-based program, our initial focus is on the United States, we welcome information about how other countries are struggling with similar problems.)
Have / Have-Not Conflicts
A second problem involves serious and (we think) intensifying tensions between the "Haves" (people who are benefiting from social and economic dynamics that increasingly concentrate wealth and power in the hands of a very few) and the "Have-Nots" (people who, at the extreme, face a world of serious deprivation with no realistic prospects for improvement). The resulting gross inequities constitute a terrible human tragedy in their own right, and they are fostering deepening and dangerous social tensions. Here again, our goal is to highlight materials that illuminate the nature of the problem and explore possible solutions. We seek a sophisticated understanding of the complex social and economic dynamics that are involved, and we want to get past the simplistic and unrealistic explanations that are so common.
War, Tyranny, and Failed States
Our third (and perhaps most challenging) thematic area focuses on the special problems faced by those struggling to build a livable future in societies torn apart by war, tyranny, or state failure. The question here, quite simply, is how to produce revolutionary transformations that truly advance the interests of the great mass of the population and do not simply result in the exchange of one tyrant for another. Again, we are looking to clarify the nature of the problem and explore solutions that truly try to address its complexity.
As should be obvious, all of these problems demonstrate a remarkable degree of intractability. We are under no illusions that there will be quick and easy solutions. Success will, at best, take decades. Still, if we try, there are undoubtedly actions we can take to make things better over both the near and the longer term.