International Conflict Observatory

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This article invites readers to join an effort to improve international understanding among competing groups in conflict by helping document the common beliefs and misunderstandings that drive conflict, thereby making it easier for (a) supporters of all sides to understand their opposition, and (b) their leaders to resolve the conflicts nonviolently by improving rule of law.

Under what circumstances would you do what you see your opposition doing?[edit]

This may be the single most important question in almost any conflict:

If you cannot see circumstances under which you might do what you see your opposition doing, you probably don't understand what drives your opponents. Worse, what you do in “self defense” may be counterproductive because of that misunderstanding.

Examples[edit]

US War in Vietnam[edit]

Former US President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who left office in 1961, said in his 1963 autobiography that he had never communicated with anyone knowledgeable in Indochinese affairs [including Vietnam], who did not agree that the Communist Ho Chi Minh might have gotten 80 percent of the vote if elections had been held there at the time of the fighting [leading to the defeat of the French in 1954].[1]

This was the universal expert consensus.

It was rarely if ever reported in the mainstream US media of that day, presumably because it would have offended the people who controlled media funding and governance.[2]

Because the media create the stage upon which politicians read their lines, US presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford felt compelled to support policies toward Indochina that led to the deaths of 55,000 US military personnel and millions of Southeast Asians.

Only two US Senators voted against the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which gave President Johnson a blank check to escalate the war in 1965. Those two Senators were defeated in the next election.[3]

That war ended when young adults in the US increasingly opposed the war. As this is written over half a century since the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, very few in the US understand why so many Vietnamese opposed US efforts there.

The War on Terror[edit]

The justification for the War on Terror seems much flimsier than the rationale behind the Vietnam War. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union (now Russia) and the People's Republic of China were (and are today) large and powerful countries, though not as powerful as the mainstream media in the US made them out to be.

US government documents declassified 2016-07-15 establish that US government officials knew as early as 1999 that members of the Saudi royal family and employees of the Saudi embassy and consulates in the US were involved in the preparations for a major terrorist attack. This documentation included an America West flight that made an emergency landing in Ohio in 1999 when two Saudis tried to break into the cockpit.[4]

So why did the US not declare war on Saudi Arabia? Why did it rush to invade Afghanistan and Iraq instead?
The general theory discussed in the Wikiversity article on "Confirmation bias and conflict" suggests that major advertisers, people who controlled substantial funding for the mainstream media in the US, had great business relations with the Saudis, and did not have good business relations with the governments of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Beyond that, a 2008 RAND study on "How Terrorist Groups End"[5] establish that the military is the least effective response to terrorism (7 percent of 268 terrorist groups that ended between 1968 and 2006) while negotiations and law enforcement were most effective.

So why didn't the US treat the suicide mass murders of September 11, 2001, as a major crime, and not as a justification for war?[6]
An answer consistent with the history of foreign interventions by the United States is that US international business interests seem to prefer authoritarian regimes to democracies, and they control major advertising budgets. This gives the mainstream media in the US a conflict of interest in honestly reporting on anything that might offend key decision makers in these major advertisers, as suggested in the Wikiversity article on "Confirmation bias and conflict".

There is no sense of proportionality in The War on Terror: Except for the single year 2001, more Americans have died in an average year drowning in bathtubs, hot tubs and spas than have succumbed to terrorist attacks.[7] But we don't declare war on bathtubs.

How do perceptions in conflict get so distorted?[edit]

The Wikiversity discussion of "confirmation bias and conflict" explains how perceptions in conflict get so distorted:

  1. Everyone prefers information and sources consistent with preconceptions.
  2. The mainstream media everywhere profit from this to benefit those who control media funding and governance.

That Wikiversity article suggests we can overcome these and similar problems by (1) resetting our preconceptions to believe that our opponents in almost any conflict know things we don't, and (2) looking for media that will help us understand those differences and creating such alternative media when we can't find information that makes our opponents seem rational.

Developing the needed alternative information[edit]

To make it easier for people to get information that makes their opposition look human, we need an “International Conflict Observatory”. This can start with volunteers producing documentation of “Why they hate us” on Wikiversity to help each side understand their opposition in the world's major conflicts.

Volunteers can help with the following:

  • Identifying major conflicts.
  • Finding good documentation of the positions of each major party to conflict and posting summaries those positions to Wikiversity to help each party understand their opposition better. This can make it harder for xenophobes be successful and can make it easier for more sensible leaders to pursue more useful and less counterproductive approaches to conflict.
  • Identifying major research organizations that produce good quality documentation useful for such analyses.
  • Identifying major advocates for better policies among the different major parties to conflict and helping those nonviolent advocacy groups promote more effective (and less lethal) approaches to conflict.
  • Helping the most valuable research organizations and advocacy groups obtain increased funding for their efforts.

If you think you can help with this, first create a Wikiversity article on the conflict that most concerns you, if one does not already exist; make sure it includes [[Category:Conflict observatory]].

Alternatively or in addition to this, add comments, questions and / or suggestions to the “Discuss” page associated with this article.

Notes[edit]

  1. Dwight D. Eisenhower (1963), Mandate for Change: The White House Years 1953-1956: A Personal Account, DoubledayWikidata Q61945939, p. 372.
  2. It may also have offended the audience for the media, but that's only because any such claims were totally inconsistent with all the other information that audience was getting.
  3. The two “no” votes were Senators Wayne Morse of Oregon and Ernest Gruening of Alaska. Both lost reelection bids in 1968.
  4. For a summary, see The 28 pages. For the document declassified on 2017-07-15, see Wikisource:Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001/Part 4 (Declassified).
  5. Seth Jones; Martin C. Libicki (2008), How Terrorist Groups End: Lessons for Countering al Qa'ida, RAND Corporation, doi:10.7249/MG741RC, ISBN 978-0-8330-4465-5Wikidata Q57515305.
  6. Noam Chomsky (2001), 9-11, OL 71728WWikidata Q4645527.
  7. Alejandra Fernandez-Morera (26 February 2018), "Someone drowns in a tub nearly every day in AmericaExperts blame alcohol; others suspect homicide", Seattle Post-IntelligencerWikidata Q60226981.