Changing the dominant idea
in The sword is not enough
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In the Arab–Israeli conflict, the dominant idea has been that force is the best way to achieve state aims while negotiations and concessions are a poor choice. What makes that idea hard to change? Three factors reinforce a commitment to military force as the dominant means: the realist structure of global politics; the multi-actor, non-unitary nature of global politics; and the impact that fear has in reinforcing the idea that force and sometimes violence are the best approach for achieving one’s national objectives or advancing one’s national security. At the same time, sometimes a secondary idea, that negotiations and concessions are the best available means and military force is counterproductive, has prevailed in this conflict. What leads to a change in the ideas? They include leadership from within the warring parties that embraces the idea of negotiations as a more effective policy tool, external mediation, an unexpected event or technological change, tit-for-tat interactions that build toward talking or even a mutually agreeable outcome, and changing threat environments. Both the 1970s and 1990s (with the Oslo process) witnessed some shifting in the dominant idea as Arabs and Israelis negotiated.

The sword is not enough

Arabs, Israelis, and the limits of military force

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