Summary of "From War to Peace"

Summary of

From War to Peace

By John Paul Lederach

This Article Summary written by: Mariya Yevsyukova, Conflict Research Consortium

Citation: Lederach, John Paul. "From War to Peace." MCS Conciliation Quarterly. Winter 1991. Vol. 10, No. 1. Pp. 12-15.

In this article John Paul Lederach analyzes the Persian Gulf war from the point of view of the conflict resolution theorizing. His conceptual framework includes understanding of the parties' positions and interests. The US position was for Iraq to leave Kuwait; otherwise force would be applied against it. The position of Iraq was not to obey threats and not to leave until the Palestinian question was resolved. The US interests included preservation of national sovereignty of Kuwait, respect for international laws, national US economic interests in oil production, Middle East stability, and Israeli security needs. Iraq's interests are rooted in historical and economic disagreements between Kuwait and Iraq concerning the Ramalia oil field, repayment of Kuwaiti loans to Iraq, as well as oil prices and regional stability (resolution of the Palestinian question).

Both parties had short-term and long-term interests. Short-term interests concerned the immediate conflict situation, while long-term interests looked at parties' relationships and their interdependence. Positional bargaining usually narrows the issues to short-term interests. According to Lederach, comprehensive solutions should address issues at both levels. The Arab world was looking at the conflicts as a regional matter, thus framing it in terms of long-term interests. Iraq, for example, wanted to include the Palestinian question in the agenda. However, the U.S. was framing the situation in terms of short-term interests, refusing to include the Palestinians.

To pave the way for negotiated solutions, parties should have clear understanding of their interests, acknowledge their interdependence by considering both short-term and long-term interests, and recognize that their interests are not incompatible. Lederach outlines several possible proposals by the US and Iraq which could have led to "creation of space" for negotiations. US proposals could have included a realistic timetable for Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait (placing UN peace-keeping forces on the major borders), a peace initiative convened "within a year of Iraq's withdrawal from Kuwait" and directed at regional stability, and a "regional arms conference" (p. 14). Iraq could have expressed its commitment to follow the "timeframe for a MidEast peace conference," suggested bilateral negotiations with Kuwait, "emergency conference of OPEC," as well as a timeframe for replacement of Allied troops with Arab peace-keepers (p. 14). The result of those proposals might have been a framework for negotiated solutions.

In the next section of the article Lederach addressed several issues brought up by this conflict within the US. First, according to him, the idea of negotiations rewarding the aggressor is true only if the conflict is framed in terms of personalities rather than national interests. Negotiations could be perceived as an opportunity to establish connection with "the moderate Arab world" (p. 14). Lederach did not agree with the view that negotiations would have given the aggressor an opportunity to win time. This view assumes the false perception of war being less time consuming. While war has created more separation between Arab world and the West, negotiations could have improved the relationships and found long-term solutions. Lederach rejected the attempt to frame negotiations as talk with a madman. Negotiations are about finding common ground with the opponent, and not judging personal qualities of the negotiator. The US missed an opportunity of negotiated solution also because it rejected Arab non-aligned countries as a possible third party in this conflict. This stemmed from Western perspective of a mediator as being "outsider-neutral" rather than "insider-partial." In Arabic cultures the latter approach is more appropriate and effective because traditional cultures value trust more than neutrality. An Arab peace initiative would have come from a worldview understandable by those representing more radical elements in the Arab world. Thus, solutions could have been more sustainable.