Urs Luterbacher, Carmen Sandi
August 6, 2014
This paper is all about the construction of a new analytical framework to understand conflict and cooperation both at the international and at the domestic level with the aim of then finding mechanisms to reduce tensions and initiate conflict resolution schemes. The existing research literature on such analytical frameworks has so far been conducted a) mostly on standard social science disciplinary lines and has not incorporated the important work done on these questions by neuro-scientists and behavioral geneticists and b) is not really capable except in very specific instances to deal with the evolving dynamics of conflict and cooperation. Conflict over scarce resources (territory, mates, food) between members of the same species is a universal feature of evolution. Often conflict, especially armed conflict is supposed to be due to shows of force by two or more parties in order to appropriate or dominate resources. Force appears thus not to be the only decisive factor; perceived entitlement and powerful feelings of injustice thereby generated in the case of challenge, extended to group identity are also at the basis of conflict and aggression in humans. The relationship between environment and conflict, the role of emotions such as fear, and the absence of clear definition and enforcement of property rights within societies are also factors in the development of conflict. Thus we have here developed an analytically based numerical model that aims to include finding on these topics by Neuroscience and to emphasize the role of emotions in conflict and cooperation dynamics. This model has been simulated without specific reference to a particular country with the result that economic conditions drive our system since in one case sustained growth produces stability and end of combats whereas deteriorating capital growth and GDP collapse lead to increased hostile coalition participation and more fighting. However, the mere trigger of economic conditions is insufficient to explain conflict escalation, which results from increased participation in mutually hostile coalitions and greater fighting propensity where emotions such as fear and resentment play their role. Finally a detailed empirical analysis of the current Syrian conflict has been undertaken which shows the ability of the model to forecast actual historical developments. This study also indicates that worsening economic conditions are not the only triggering factors in civil conflict. Perceptions of opportunities due to a weakening of a regime’s authority also play a major role.