Identifying Potential Ethnic Conflict

Application of a Process Model

by Thomas S. Szayna


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Intrastate communitarian strife, often dubbed ethnic conflict, has gained much attention in the aftermath of the Cold War. Certainly, intrastate conflict has been by far the dominant form of strife in the world in the 1990s. This report outlines a model for anticipating the occurrence of communitarian and ethnic conflict. The model is not a mechanistic tool, but a process-based heuristic device with a threefold purpose: (1) to orderthe analyst's thinking about the logic and dynamics of potential ethnically based violence and to aid in defining the information-collection requirements of such an analysis; (2) to provide a general conceptual framework about how ethnic grievances form and group mobilization occurs and how these could lead to violence under certain conditions; and (3) to assist the intelligence community with the long-range assessment of possible ethnic strife. The theoretical model explains how the potential for strife should be understood; how the potential for strife is transformed, through mobilization, into a likelihood of strife; and how extant state capacities interact through a process of strategic bargaining withmobilized groups to produce, under certain conditions, varying degrees of strife. Use of the model is demonstrated through its application to four case studies, two retrospective (Yugoslavia and South Africa) and two prospective (Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia).

Table of Contents

  • Preface PDF

  • Figures PDF

  • Tables PDF

  • Acknowledgements

    Acknowledgments PDF

  • Chapter One

    Introduction PDF

  • Chapter Two

    The Process Model for Anticipating Ethnic Conflict PDF

  • Chapter Three

    The Yugoslav Retrospective Case PDF

  • Annex: Demographic Characteristics of Yugoslavia in the Late 1980s PDF

  • Chapter Four

    The South African Retrospective Case PDF

  • Annex: Demographic Characteristics of South Africa in the Late 1980s PDF

  • Chapter Five

    The Ethiopian Prospective Case PDF

  • Annex: Demographic Characteristics of Ethiopia in 1997-1998 PDF

  • Chapter Six

    The Saudi Arabian Prospective Case PDF

  • Annex: Demographic Characteristics of Saudi Arabia in 1997-1998 PDF

  • Chapter Seven

    Final Observations PDF

  • Appendix PDF

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The research described in this report was performed under the auspices of RAND's Arroyo Center division.

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