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The interconnected use of political, economic and military tools in conflict
resolution and post-conflict reconstruction

By: Saeed Kakeyi
March 23, 2008
This essay tries to provide a comparative analysis on the use of political, economic and
military tools during conflict resolution engagements and in periods of post-conflict
reconstruction. Also, this essay will try to show the degree of which policymakers can apply
such tools, and the reasons for great challenges, if any, that they may face since the end of
the Cold War. Then the author of this work will argue these points with informed and by
creative interpretations illustrating the danger associated with conflict.

Throughout history, conflict has been an integral part of human interactions, especially in
situations where incompatible interests of one party clash with those of the other party. Yet,
since politics is a procedure to manage the affairs of groups of people with common needs,
interests and goals, it is fair, therefore, to say that politics is about who gets what, when and
how? Meanwhile, this question poses a wider perplexity about the means pursued to reach
goals which groups are struggling for. Within such confusions, students and scholars have
been defining conflict according to the structure it holds: cultural, territorial, economic, and
As Ramsbotham and other explain, modern political conflict encompasses most
conflicts, whether pursued by peaceful means or otherwise (Ramsbotham et al. 27).
However, the authors imply the liberal notion to the “deep-rooted” sources of conflict. They
argue that because human “behaviour is no longer violent and attitudes are no longer hostile”
(Ramsbotham et al. 29), the structure of the conflict needed addressing and, thus,
transformed through negotiation and mediation. Therefore, “conflict resolution as a defined
specialist field has come of age in the post-Cold War era” (Ramsbotham et al. 3), and is
facing inherent challenges at all levels of political relations: Domestic, regional and
Parallel to conflict resolution, post-conflict reconstruction is amid at addressing the
root causes of a conflict with multifaceted system to prevent disputes from growing, avoid a
relapse into violent conflict, and build a consolidated protracted peace. In addressing the link
between peace, security and stable development dimensions, post-conflict reconstruction
advances through three general phases of developments; emergency phase, transitional phase
and development phase (NEPAD, iv).
Within this complex framework, one has to understand the extent of which
policymakers are using political, economic and military tools available to them in conflict
resolution as well as in its “interconnected peer” of post-conflict reconstruction. Yet, to
provide a comprehensive analysis, the author of this work will apply a limited comparative
style to address the issues this paper concerned with.

Negotiation as a method to end conflicts
Since the inception of conflict resolution, in the 1950s and 1960s, academics and
practitioners working in the field have been eagerly promoting negotiation and mediation as
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two effective methods for conflict resolution and war ending. Having said that, each of theses
methods refer to different sets of circumstances. More often than not, negotiation is a
“problem-solving” process that happens directly between the main parties to the conflict. In
such engagements, policymakers and official negotiators make use of political, economic and
military tools as bargaining tactics—chips and chops. Their aims involve either reaching a
“win-win” cooperative solutions, or to force a “win-lose” competitive solutions upon the
weaker party to the conflict. The latter types of negotiations commonly practiced during the
interstate and extrastate conflicts, especially in the Cold War era.
Stronger policymakers and their representatives, almost always, resorted to
competitive negotiations because of their great political, economic and military leverages
over their counterparts with lesser of such powers. Ample examples do exist on competitive
negotiation, especially with relation to territorial conflicts. The Iraq-Iran negotiations ending
their eight years of war, 1980-88, over the Shattul Arab River was one of such competitive
negotiations—also known as “position-based” negotiation. Other examples include Israel’s
negotiations with its neighboring Arab countries after the 1948, 1967 and 1973 wars over
Israel’s occupation of Arab and Palestinian lands.
Cooperative negotiations, on the other hand, gained impetus in the post-Cold War era,
aiming at resolving the complexities of intrastate communal conflicts. In cooperative
negotiations, also known as interest-based negotiation, parties to the conflict tend to make
use of politics and economic tools, more than anything else, as their means for peaceful
resolution. The reason for this trend is points to many factors. The spread of academic
negotiation centers worldwide, the formations of transnational organizations focusing on
peace and global security and, most importantly, the close proximity of the conflicting
parties’ inhabitations.
Examples of successful cooperative negotiations include “the ending of apartheid in
South Africa, the ending of the internal conflicts in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala,
the settlements in Mozambique and Namibia and the Ta’if Accord which brought the civil
war in Lebanon to an end” (Ramsbotham et al. 162).
However, if a solution to a communal conflict is out of reach, and military tool
becomes the only way out of the impasse; human losses become enormous and often lead to
genocide (Ramsbotham et al. 161). Unfortunately, the Rwandan, Burundis and later the
Bosnian communal conflicts in the 1990s ended with nothing but genocides.
Negotiation as a method for deliberating on political, economic and military solutions
to reach the intended goals is equally important to post-conflict reconstructions. In a “failed”
or “failing” state which may threaten the regional and international stability, intervention
becomes a prime requirement for security. In such a scenario, the use of military force is the
only alternative for policymakers to restore peace and start developments. With this process,
negotiation is critical with domestic political elites on peace-building measures that deny
“opportunities for terrorist and criminal organizations” (Miskel, 71) to have sanctuaries
among the vulnerable citizens.

Mediation and intervention as methods to end conflicts
Unlike negotiation, mediation and intervention involve individuals, transnational
organizations and diplomatic representatives of countries whom are not parties to the
conflict. Mediation and intervention tasks are to “help the conflicting parties by putting them
in contact with one another, gaining their trust and confidence, setting agendas, clarifying
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issues and formulating agreements” (Ramsbotham et al. 168). These procedures vary in form,
duration and purpose.
Yet, since there is no consensus on the impartiality of third parties’ mediation and
intervention efforts, the applications of political, economic and military tools became
considerably more challenging in the post-Cold war era. Third party’s uncoordinated use of
“coercive diplomacy” and “hard” mediation and intervention tactics, more often than not,
contribute to the renewal of conflicts, especially with cultural and identity related conflicts.
Turkey’s Kurdish identity conflict between the “deep-state” Turkish actors and the radical
Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) is an example for the failure of western countries’ biased
coercive diplomacy in subduing Kurdish cultural and identity rights.

Political, economic and military tools in post-conflict reconstruction
In post-conflict reconstruction, political, economic and military tools must all be tied together
and interconnected throughout the phases of reconstruction. Military tool is critical to start
the emergency phase or the “the negative task” in restoring security and relative order
(NEPAD, 6; Ramsbotham et al. 195). However, one must not ignore the importance of using
political tool, simultaneously, in initiating short-, medium- and long-term programs to
transform the negative task into the development phase or “positive task” where economic
tool becomes critical.
It is true that military tool is essential for the integrity of the procedural phases of the
transformation in which “encompasses collective as well as individual security and is the
precondition for achieving successful outcomes in the other pillars” (Hamre and Sullivan,
91); however, without domestic political consensus, military tool becomes less effective. In
fact, it may even lead to the escalation of violence due to the lack of cultural awareness and
the effects of the local and regional spoilers. The recent international interventions in
Afghanistan and Iraq attest to this reality, where domestic political elites and local and
regional spoilers are not eager to go beyond the emergency phase, simply because of the
domestic cultural and political indifferences with those of the interventionists.

While conflict resolution has a history of six decades in international relation, policymakers
have fairly been able to respond to the international security challenges in post-Cold War era
by applying their political, economic and military tools. However, in post-conflict
reconstruction efforts, the application of these tools as a bundle is critical. But, because of
cultural indifferences, the order of usage of these tools poses some challenges that
policymakers have to consider them seriously.

1. Hamre, John J. and Gordon R. Sullivan. “Toward Postconflict Reconstruction.” The Washington
Quarterly 24.4 (2002) 85-96.
2. Miskel, James F. “Grand Strategies for Dealing with Other States in the New, New World Order.”
Naval War College Review 58.1 (2005) 63-75.
3. Ramsbotham, Oliver, Woodhouse, Tom and Hugh Miall. Contemporary Conflict Resolution. 2nd Ed.
Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2005.
4. The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). African Post Conflict Reconstruction
Policy Framework. NEPAD Secretariat, 2005. Retrieved on March 17,2008 from