Perspectives on Political and Social Regional Stability Impacted by Global Crises – A Social Science Context

January 2010 No Comments

Perspectives on Political and Social Regional Stability Impacted by Global Crises – A Social Science Context.

Author | Editor: Cabayan, H. (Joint Staff), Sotirin, B. et al. (USACE-HQ, CERD).

Cooperative security, stability operations and irregular warfare missions require a better understanding of the complex operational environment, notably through rich contextual understanding of the factors affecting stability. Further assessment, policy, and planning need to consider factors associated with institutional performance (community organizations, government ministries, legal structures, etc.) based on how societies emerge, develop, and function, as well as attributes that provide resiliency and flexibility.

Today, stability experts are faced with a new environment in which the world is highly interconnected, change is very rapid, and threats are multifaceted; all of these pose very different challenges to the US Government (USG). The current financial situation underscores both the rapidity and global extent of economic collapse, and it has exacerbated problems in other areas. Solutions in one area can have first-, second-, and third-order effects in other areas; these effects can be both positive and negative. Global average food prices increased by more than 80% during 2005-2008, sparking food riots in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, the Former Soviet Union, and Central and South America. Contributing factors are complicated; for example, shifts in food demands may be contributing to the food price increases, as increasing use of food crops for bio- fuels and increasing demand for protein-rich diets dramatically decreases efficient use of grain calories. Estimates of future water availability are alarming, and while earthquakes often impact manmade water management structures, reports also suggest that geophysical changes caused by large dams may have triggered earthquakes, including China’s 7.9 magnitude earthquake last year along a fault near the Zipingpu Dam and Reservoir that left 80,000 people missing or dead. In addition to food and water issues, severe weather events and climate change, shifts in demographics, increasing energy demands, pandemics, and threatened usage of nuclear weapons are threats that individually, or worse, in combination, can significantly increase the fragility of world stability.

While in today’s increasingly interconnected world, global crises and unstable regions pose an acute risk to world security and could provide unforeseen circumstances ripe for manipulation and exploitation, these same threats can serve as rallying instruments, catalyzing disparate groups to work in concert to develop coordinated responses and preparedness mechanisms. This coordination can also result in development of negotiation venues for other issues. First-, second- and third-order effects can have positive impacts. In addition to the factors identified in the frameworks above, other dimensions of consideration include (1) institutional performance (community organizations, government ministries, legal structures, etc.) as a function of how societies emerge, develop, and operate, and (2) attributes that provide resilience and flexibility.

So the lingering question remains, where will the next occurrence of regional instability be that requires U.S. intervention? How should we shape the structure of our future force to respond to such instability? This white paper brings some of best minds together to examine the following aspects of this challenging problem:

  • ? Individual factors impacting regional stability
  • ? How these individual factors can combine to create tipping points that drive significant regional instabilities
  • ? Approaches to forecast and anticipate where future instabilities may occur to give our warfighters an unfair advantage in the future.
Collecting the Best Ideas

To capture the breadth of this issue, this paper examines issues ranging from political, infrastructural, demographic, economic, resource-related, climatologic, energy-related, epidemiological, sociological, and analytical issues as they impact regional stability. Decision makers are dealing with an evolving situation in which societies are increasingly interconnected; changes occur rapidly, often with unexpected consequences; and threats to stability are complex. This white paper is a comprehensive compilation and assessment of complex issues influencing regional stability by a diverse group of authors that discuss the assessment of regional stability through the lens of crises in food, water, changing climate, energy, economy, demographics and epidemics. These articles, some of which have been previously published, provide critical insights into factors and tools that can apply to this complex challenge. Contributors to this white paper have provided a rich analysis of the factors affecting stability, as well as new perspectives based on careful study and experience germane to today’s issues. This compilation yields an overarching view of regional stability as it impacts global and regional crises. Through detailed citations of the scholarship and current thinking throughout their communities, the authors make a compelling case for how multiple factors can coalesce to result in radical impacts on regional stability.

Bringing Wide-ranging Ideas Together

The organizational approach used to bring together the wide-ranging factors associated with stability is analogous to a wheel. At the hub, the central support, we examine the nature of stability and state building. What makes it work? This paper outlines the key aspects of functioning states, examines how they contribute to the good of all, and defines how they resist threats and provide stability.

Emanating from the hub are seven enablers of stability: demographics, economics, water, changing climate and weather, energy, food, and epidemics. Each of these articles discusses the relationship that enabler has on the stability of a society.

The rim of the wheel is a series of articles describing possible quantitative and integration methods coupled to social science modeling approaches. These approaches provide potential means to use existing and emerging information to forecast regional instabilities. The “tread” of the wheel is comprised of case studies in social science modeling. These articles provide a context and examples of unique challenges in predicting trends in social sciences.

Bringing Order to a Complex Problem

The factors in the frameworks discussed above form components of a complex system that interacts in dynamic nonlinear ways and has significant emphasis on social systems. It has become sometimes painfully obvious that evasion of independent consideration of these factors can hinder pursuing outcomes of national importance. Accordingly, the USG has considerable interest in descriptive models – with substantial attention and investment in a wide array of social science models in recent years – developed to inform a more comprehensive assessment of current security conditions and to enlighten potential future security outcomes that often ignore geo-political boundaries, that are insensitive to cultural issues, elude legal categorizations and/or expand beyond national economic conditions.

Assessment of regional stability needs to consider indicators associated with political, social and institutional performance based on how societies emerge, develop, and operate, as well as attributes that provide resilience and flexibility. Identifying geopolitical and socio-cultural indicators that target a confluence of factors, and establishing trigger thresholds may prove as important as defining the individual factors themselves. At the same time, assessment must also consider indicators associated with drivers of instability and conflict (economic decline/shock, criminalized security forces, environmental degradation, struggles for absolute power, etc.). We anticipate exploring multiple social science theories, research methods, and well-known quantitative/statistical analysis techniques (cluster analysis, nodal analysis, cross-correlation, and factor analysis) in this white paper to (1) independently select relevant indicators (climate change/change of weather, economy, water, food, pandemics or epidemics, energy), (2) operationalize and validate indicator coding schemes, (3) clarify interdependencies across indicators (impact of water policy on energy, health and economy), and (4) regroup indicators by looking at a confluence of factors, priorities and contributing factors and drivers of conflict and rallying mechanisms. Finally, assessment should function from an asset-based perspective that is focused on indigenous capabilities, perceptions, systems, interactions and activities at multiple levels, at multiple stages, and accounting for variability and rate of change. The result of the assessment should enable operators to understand what conditions exist, why they exist, and how best to transform them.

This white paper provides a comprehensive examination of the factors that influence regional stability. Points to investments and initiatives that will likely improve our ability to predict the consequences of crisis on regional stability can help minimize the threat of instability. Through the analysis of multiple social science theories, research methods, and established quantitative and statistical analysis techniques, this white paper, Perspectives on Political and Social Regional Stability Impacted by Global Crises – A Social Science Context, provides a significant step along the path to resolving the complex problems critical to the future security of the U.S.

This edited volume, consisting of short contributions (5-7 pages each), will describe definitions of stability, will examine assessment approaches, and will extend to encompass strategies for tailored assessment and planning.

Clare Lockhart (Section 1) addresses the significance of “Stability and State Building.” This paper describes how functioning states are a vital piece of global architecture and that as such they not only provide critical resistance to a variety of threats, but they also contribute to the collective global goals and stability in the 21st century.

Philip Martin of UC-Davis (2.1.A) reviews International Migration. The number of international migrants, defined by the UN as persons outside their country of origin a year or more, for any reason and in any legal status, more than doubled between 1990 and 2010. Current default policy is to manage what is often seen as out-of-control migration and by adjusting the rights of migrants, leading to conflicts over human rights. Martin’s paper analyzes long-term factors affecting migration patterns, including aging in industrial countries, rural-urban migration that spills over national borders, and the migration infrastructure of agents and networks that moves people.

Jack Goldstone (2.1.B) continues this theme with “Demography and Security,” in which he discusses the five major demographic trends likely to pose significant security challenges to the majority of developed nations in the next two decades. He notes that problems will be caused not by the overall population growth, but by the population distortions, in which populations grow too young or too fast, or become too urbanized.

In “Demographic Security,” Elizabeth Leahy Madsen (2.1C) reviews findings regarding population and two security issues—outbreaks of civil conflict and level of democratic governance—at the global scale. The theme of her paper is that population influences security and development, and it is an important underlying variable in global stability because of its interactions with other factors.

David Richards and Ronald Gelleny (2.2.A) address the relationship between banking crises and domestic agitation/internal conflict in “Banking Crises, Collective Protest and Rebellion.” They examine a dataset of 125 countries for the years 1981 to 2000 and find banking crises to be systematically associated with greater levels of collective protest activities such as riots, anti- government demonstrations, and strikes.

An overview of work done at the Joint Staff J-5 is outlined by Peter Steen (2.2.B) in “Economics and Political Instability within the Global Economic Crisis.” This paper provides a strategic national-level understanding of the ongoing global economic crisis, as well as investigates the relationship between economics and political instability within that context.

Jerome Delli Priscoli (2.3.A) of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers discusses the role of water and its relationship to international stability with “Water & Security: Cause War or Help Community Building.” He posits that the water and security debate is driven by our notions of scarcity, and that ultimately, the strategic aspects of water lend themselves to finding means for cooperation rather than conflict.

An interagency team – Olsen and White (USACE), Brekke and Raff (US Bureau of Reclamation), Kiang and Turnipseed (USGS) and Pulwarty and Webb (NOAA) – representing the two largest water resources operating agencies (USACE and Reclamation) and two major water resources data and science agencies (USGS and NOAA) (2.3.B) continue the water dialogue in “Water Resources.” Their paper describes the multiple factors that can impact and stress water resources. Due to those interactions, solutions to water resource problems should follow a comprehensive approach that integrates multiple objectives across the proper spatial and temporal scales with all relevant stakeholders participating in the decision-making process.

In “Water Security and Scarcity: Potential Destabilization in Western Afghanistan,” Alex Dehgan, and Laura Jean Palmer-Moloney (2.3.C) offer a water resources case study. The paper highlights the implications of plans for upgrading and developing Afghanistan’s water infrastructure in the Helmand River watershed. While crucial to the social and economic development of Afghanistan, these plans will also impact transboundary water flow and as a result, Afghanistan’s relations with Iran.

In “Maintaining Geopolitical and Social Stability throughout a Global Economy in an Era of Climate Change,” James Diaz (2.4.A) describes the uniform agreement in the international scientific community that the earth is warming from a variety of climatic effects. Ultimately, this change will have far reaching impacts on human health and public safety. Diaz believes the challenge for the U.S. will be to assume leadership in maintaining geopolitical and social stability throughout the global economy in an era of climate change.

Kenneth S. Yalowitz and Ross A. Virginia (2.4.B) address the role of the Arctic in the changing climatic environment in “The Arctic Region: Prospects for a Great Game or International Cooperation.” Their theory is that the pace of ecological, political, social, and economic change in the Arctic region is accelerating due to the warming climate. The paper evaluates the prospects for contrasting outcomes in the Arctic region: a return to international power politics as states seek to claim Arctic energy, extend continental shelves, and enforce their wills through military means versus the emergence of increased international cooperation around environmental protection and sustainable development.

“Changing Climate Impacts to Water Resources: Implications for Stability” is authored by Kathleen D. White, J. Rolf Olsen, Levi D. Brekke, David A. Raff, Roger S. Pulwarty, and Robert Webb (2.4.C), all from the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and discusses climate change in the context of water resources, including the potential implications for stability issues. They argue that water resource managers are already accustomed to dealing with changes and therefore offer a potential resource to utilize for the larger issue if they are prepared to act quickly. The authors propose a strategy encompassing both the potential for increased conflict over water and increased cooperation by water resources managers to enhance planning for stability.

An introduction to the role of energy begins with “Energy, Africa and Civil Conflict: What Does the Future Hold?” by Richard J. Stoll (2.5.A). Stoll notes that Africa will likely become increasingly important to the U.S. as a source of resources, including oil. However, Africa is also rife with civil conflict. Ongoing civil conflict makes it very difficult to establish or continue the exportation of natural resources. Therefore, it is in the U.S.’s best interest to address the issue of civil conflict in Africa.

Douglas J. Arent (2.5.B) continues this topic of Energy with “Energy: A National and Global Issue,” and states that new energy pathways are a necessity to balance the increasingly complex policy goals of accessibility, environmental concerns, geopolitical issues, and affordability. Continuing reliance on geographically concentrated oil and natural gas to feed the ongoing demand will threaten international energy security.

Jeffrey Steiner and Timothy Griffin (2.6.A) address the role of food in relation to the larger picture of Stability in “World Food Availability and Natural Land Resources Base.” Steiner and Griffin note that there is a need to consider how changing population and wealth patterns will not only impact food availability and consumption patterns, but also our inter-related needs for energy and water. This is increasingly important in relation to the Earth’s finite land mass.

Donald Suarez (2.6.B) follows with “Food Production in Arid Regions Due to Salinity.” He discusses the issue of the water supply, the impact of salinity, the potential for water reuse—both of irrigation drainage and municipal waste water—and utilization of saline waters for crop production. Improvements in irrigation practices, investment in new technologies, and development of salt-tolerant plant varieties may enable these regions to utilize more abundant brackish and saline waters for irrigation and may minimize degradation of fresh water supplies.

The discussion of Epidemics begins with “Epidemics: A Thumbnail Sketch of the Past, Present and Future,” by Debarati Guha-Spair (2.7.A). Disease outbreaks have significant impacts on factors that are critical for national and international stability. There are clear disparities between rich and poor nations and their abilities to react and control the situation. Balancing policies to address the problems will also be a challenge for global disease control.

The Epidemics discussion continues with “Infectious Disease and Social Instability: Prevent, Respond, Repair,” by Daniel Strickman (2.7B). The effects of infectious diseases on social instability can be devastating and society’s ability to prepare and respond to an epidemic can offer social stability. The concept of Integrated Disease Management is presented as a construct to mitigate the societal impacts of infectious disease using the functions of risk assessment, surveillance, prevention and control, and sustainable support.

The role of social science modeling and its approaches to analysis is presented in Section Four. Victor Asal and Steve Shellman (3.1) begin with “Analyzing Political & Social Regional Stability with Statistics: Challenges and Opportunities.” They provide an overview of some of the research on the causes of stability and instability done using statistical analysis. A discussion of the efforts made in the area of forecasting is presented, as well as the challenges of statistical analysis related to issues of data and method.

Larry Kuznar (3.2) presents the anthropological view in “The Social Stability of Societies: An Anthropological View.” He notes that instability does not appear overnight and that a longer term historical perspective is necessary to understand the latent factors that accumulate slowly and then result in dramatic social collapse. Anthropology provides this perspective, and this chapter reviews insights concerning why some societies fail while others prosper.

“Quantitative Content” is presented by Laura Leets (3.3) and focuses on the central concepts underlying content analysis and how to conduct effective research. Content analysis is a technique for gathering and analyzing the content of text. Text can be anything written, visual or spoken, which serves as a medium for communication. Content analysis can be utilized in either qualitative or quantitative format; however, this submission focuses on the quantitative uses.

Joe Hewitt (3.4) contributes “The Peace and Conflict Instability Ledger Ranking States on Future Risks.” He presents country rankings from the 2010 Peace and Conflict Instability Ledger which are based on newly calculated risk estimates. The ledger represents a synthesis of some of the leading research on explaining and forecasting state instability. Hewitt also discusses some of the key results from the analysis, including the pivotal relationship between democratization and risk of instability.

Tom Rieger (3.5) provides a discussion into the problems related to developing stability models in “Perception is Reality: Stability through the Eyes of the Populace,” the largest problem being the limitations due to what sources are available. He describes how having a robust model of the level of stability in a given population based on perceptions of conditions would be a major contribution to the ability to plan for—and possibly help avoid—significant human suffering as a result of instability.

In “Assessing the stability of Interstate Relationships Using Game Theory,” Frank Zagare (3.6) explains the sense in which game models can be used to establish the stability, or lack thereof, of typical deterrence relationships and to understand the context of their policy recommendations. Game-theoretic models are a natural and intuitively satisfying framework in which to assess the stability of contentious inter-state relationships.

Robert Axelrod (3.7) presents a simple theoretical framework to enhance insight about partnerships for economic development. “Theoretical Foundations of Partnerships for Economic Development” clarifies the idea of theoretical foundations of partnerships by analyzing partnerships using game theory of an iterated prisoner’s dilemma. The analysis then reveals implications of selecting a partner, setting up a partnership, choosing a modus operandi, building trust, achieving selectivity, and performing monitoring and evaluation.

“Process Query System as a Framework for Modeling and Analysis of Regional Stability” is authored by George Cybenko and Douglas Madory (3.8). In response to similar problems across a variety of application domains, suggesting an underlying common analytic foundation, they propose two technologies—Process Query Systems (PQS) and Human Behavioral Modeling Language (HBML)—which could form the foundation for a standard, common computational capability. This capability could then be used to represent economic, health, political and environmental models related to regional stability, and reasoning about those models in the context of data, observations and other evidence.

The focus of Stephen M. Millett’s contribution (3.9), “The Use of Cross-Impact Analysis for Modeling, Simulation and Forecasting,” is to assert that cross-impact analysis may be just as effective, and arguably quicker, less expensive, and more robust, than systems dynamics. Millett asserts that it is a complementary approach that provides further foresight for the benefit of both forward-looking analysts and decision-makers, and he recommends further exploration as a supplementary approach to system dynamics, as well as other modeling, simulation and forecasting methods.

The Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance (3.10) submits “Development of a Framework for Action: Community Resiliency as a Means of Achieving Stability,” which outlines their process of creating a defining framework. The framework would determine what makes an individual household, community, and society resilient before, during, and after disasters.

Finally, Section Five looks at two case studies applicable to the Stability issue. First, Robert Popp (4.1) reports on the Sudan in “Sudan Strategic Assessment: A Case Study of Social Science Modeling.” This assessment was a strategic level proof-of-concept study in which a combination of quantitative and computational social science modeling and analysis approaches were developed and applied to better understand a complex “state” lacking true borders and encompassing many competing interests and complexities. Results demonstrated how multiple quantitative and computational social science models in conjunction with SMEs and other analyses are an effective, evolutionary step in the analyst toolkit, especially when the need is to provide additional lenses to look at highly complex and ambiguous stability problems (like the Sudan) to inform the decision-making process.

Second, Tom Mullen (4.2) presents “Analyzing Stability Challenges in Africa: A Case Study.” He notes that, with resources spread thin, we need better ways to rapidly understand what matters in each new situation, and to better understand why particular actions worked (and others did not), to aid in determining where and how those lessons might be more likely to work well. Assessment of highly complex situations quickly improves the ability to take rapid, effective action. Mullen’s case study attempts to provide lessons drawn from analyzing a number of stability situations on the continent of Africa over the past three years, with a focus on lessons in analyzing complex stability situations rather than specific actions to apply in a wide range of situations.

Contributing Authors

Hriar Cabayan (OSD), Barbara Sotirin (USACE-HQ, CERD), Robert Davis (ERDC-NH), Robert Popp (NSI), Andy Reynolds (U.S. Dept. of State), Anne Ralte (USAID), Herm Myers (OUSDP), Phil Kearley (JFCOM), Robert Allen (TRADOC), Lynda Jaques (PACOM), Sharon Halls (AFRICOM), Carl Dodd (STRATCOM/ GISC), Martin Drake (CENTCOM), MAJ Bradley Hilton (EUCOM), Tom Rieger (Gallup), Tom Mullen, (PA), Peter Steen (JS/J-5), Larry Kuznar (NSI), Clare Lockhart (State Effectiveness Institute), Philip Martin (UC-Davis), Jack A. Goldstone (GMU), Elizabeth Leahy Madsen (PAI), David L. Richards (Memphis), Ronald Gelleny (Akron), Peter Steen (JS/J-5), Jerome Delli Priscoli (USACE), J. Rolf Olsen (USACE), Kathleen D. White (USACE), Julie E. Kiang (USGS), D. Phil Turnipseed (USGS), Levi D. Brekke (Reclamation), David A. Raff (Reclamation), Roger S. Pulwarty (NOAA), Robert Webb (NOAA), Alex O.Dehgan (DOS), Laura Jean Palmer-Moloney (USACE), James Diaz (LSU), Kenneth S. Yalowitz (Dartmouth), Ross A. Virginia (Dartmouth), Richard J. Stoll (Rice), Douglas J. Arent (NREL), Jeffrey Steiner (USDA), Timothy Griffin (Tufts), Donald Suarez (USDA), Debarati Guha-Sapir(CRED), Daniel Strickman (USDA), Victor Asal (Albany), Stephen Shellman(William and Mary), Lawrence A. Kuznar (NSI), Laura Leets (NSI), J. Joseph Hewitt (CIDCM), Tom Rieger (Gallup), Frank C. Zagare (SUNY Buffalo), Robert Axelrod (Michigan), George Cybenko (Dartmouth), Douglas Madory (Dartmouth), Stephen M. Millett (Futuring Assoc), Ame Stormer (DMHA), Jessica Wambach (DMHA), and Lt Gen (Ret) John F. Goodman (DMHA), Robert Popp(NSI), Tom Mullen (PA)

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