Friday, December 1, 2006

Influence and Stress

It is useful to look at Iraq as a case study of non-violent influence, where that influence had the intended effect from the end of the Gulf war until the leadership of the United States changed in 2001.

All three areas of operations were involved when containment was at its peak. These included external control of Iraq’s influence, boundary control of its economy (which also had a military component), and minimal internal operations in the form of intelligence gathering (weapons inspections) to verify that the other operations were successful regarding Saddam’s ability to wage war.

When Saddam’s paranoia drove him to evict the U.N. weapons inspectors, the rest of the world started getting nervous. Despite the fact that nothing had changed, the inability to verify it led other paranoid world leaders (in the United States) to assume the worst case, and take action accordingly. There was in effect a weakening of the boundary operations as a result of the disappearance of internal operations, and external events (notably 9/11) that decreased the threshold of threat perception in the minds of world leaders.

As I’ve discussed elsewhere, an increase in uncertainty about how to reach one’s goals may be one of the most reliable ways to increase stress, and such uncertainty was very likely the main trigger for violence in this case. If this view is correct, then violent and non-violent interaction between nations can most meaningfully be discussed in terms of their usefulness in reducing both the level of stress and its cumulative effects (proportional to how much time it is endured).

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