Co-Director of the University of Colorado Conflict Research Consortium and the Beyond Intractability Project
Topics: conflict resolution, complexity, peacebuilding
Interviewed by Julian Portilla — 2004
Listen to Full Interview
- Conflict Resolution Field
- Mass Media Efforts
- Inspiring People
- The Internet
- Conflict Resolution Expertise
- A West Point Conference
- Controversies Over Terms
- Increasing Exploration
Q: Guy, give me an overview of your work if you would please.
A: Well first of all, the work that I do is done very closely with my wife Heidi and I tend to think in terms of "we." We have different personalities and different skills and the kind of things that we do, we can do together that neither of us can do separately. We've been working together so closely that it's kind of hard to decide what's my work and what's her work, it's ours really. Our best conflict resolution credential is that we've been working together closely for twenty years and pretty closely for thirty. People could care less about degrees and things, but if you can do that we must know at least a little something. So at any rate, the kind of work that we do is really odd and we kind of backed into it. We have sort of two lines of work that started out very separate and managed to converge, sort of by accident and sort of by design. One story that I like to tell is that in 1988, we got our first grant from the Hewlett Foundation to establish at the University of Colorado a Conflict Resolution Consortium, and we called it Conflict Resolution Consortium because the Hewlett grant program was for conflict resolution. Then we went out and talked to all of our friends and we're sort of the standard, '60s/'70s vintage Vietnam-era, card-carrying liberals. We both have degrees in sociology, which gives you a lifetime liberal credential. Our associations have always been with this sort of activist, social justice, environmental justice, as well as peace and conflict resolution. We found out that all of our activist friends thought we turned into traitors. "What's all of this about resolving conflict? I've spent my who life trying to heighten conflict. I don't want to compromise, I want to fight for justice." And we would send out invitations to come to Conflict Resolution Consortium events and nobody would come. Then one day we got the bright idea to twist it around a little bit. Instead of approaching things from the perspective of intermediaries, we decided to approach things from the perspectives of the parties. You sort of start with the recognition that there are going to be confrontations over important social justice issues, and ask the questions, "How can these confrontations be handled more constructively?" We coined the phrase "constructive confrontation" and all of a sudden people were interested, because lots of people were in fights and they weren't going very well and they wanted to win. It's no accident that the only best-selling book to come out of the conflict resolution field, "Getting to Yes," is about getting your way. It's not about negotiating a mutually acceptable compromise that requires everybody to give up a lot. But that subtle twist turned out to be important. The other thing that was important was that we approached the field with a healthy degree of skepticism. A lot of the things that people talked about sort of implied that there was a nice win-win situation were everybody walked away happy. I just didn't quite feel good about this. Part of this was a quest to find a set of processes and interventions that we would feel good about selling and really tell people it was in their best interest. So that lead also to this inquiry into intractable conflict, we also caught on to the idea that intractable conflict seems to be, well we've had huge intractable fights about whether or not it's a good term. It's been fairly good to us in a fund-raising perspective and it's been fairly good at communicating what we're all about. A lot of people have a sense there are really intractable conflicts out there and that this win-win settlement, and all you have to do is get a mediator and the right-shaped table and everything will be fine, just doesn't quite cut it. So we focused a lot on intractable conflicts and really trying to understand the nature of them and what can be done.
Q: Some people have said to me that intractable conflict means it's unresolvable and why should we bother staying if it's unresolvable?
A: Well my answer to that is that we're not interested in resolving conflict for the sake of resolving conflict. What we're interested in is social learning. The basic conflict interaction is that the world would be better if you just change. The person that is being asked to change, doesn't want to change, they like things the way they are. So what we need is a process for first of all encouraging people to suggest that they and others change for the better, but then we need a process for deciding which changes are appropriate from some reasonable standard of equitability and fairness and some sort of reasonable standard of workability. It doesn't count to do something for the right reasons if it doesn't stand a prayer of working. So you need equity and it's also good to have a process that's relatively timely, so you learn things in time to do some good. It's nice if it's relatively inexpensive. It's also good if it doesn't destroy relationships to deal with other problems and certainly not violent, especially large-scale violence. I'm certainly not a full blown pacifist, but in almost every case the resort to violence is counter-productive, but not every case.
Q: I have a usual series of questions, but one question before we get to those...well two questions about two different models. I'll start with the first question. You guys have a term for choosing a strategy to engage in conflict, it's not always this third-party or interest-based engagement, but you have a term for choosing which strategy is best.
A: I'm not quite sure what you're thinking of. There are certainly lots and lots of different roles. One of the big problems with the conflict resolution field and one of the real challenges is to move beyond its table-oriented view of itself. The conflict resolution types tend to think of themselves as experts in managing what goes on around a table. I recently was reflecting on a panel I was on, a long time ago, with a guy who was a historian on the Manhattan project, he was a physicist and he was a real peace activist as a lot of people on the Manhattan Project were. He was saying that one of the real privileges of being a scientist is to understand the incredible importance of orders of magnitude. And he went on to explain that nuclear weapons are four orders of magnitude more powerful, that's a factor of 10,000, than previous weapons. That change over four orders of magnitude isn't just quantitative, it's qualitative, the whole world is different when you can do that. As Einstein phrases, "Nuclear weapons have changed everything but our way of thinking," still makes a lot of sense. I was trying to think about what else is four orders of magnitude different. The difference between an ant walking down the sidewalk and the International Space Station orbiting the Earth is about four orders of magnitude. I never really timed how fast an ant goes. Then I was thinking about a lot of the intractable contemporary conflicts that plague the world today. Take Israel/Palestine for example, this is just one of a zillion examples, it's just the one that everyone seems to want to talk about. I don't know exactly what the population is, but let's say it's about 10 million total. Then you imagine a series of interventions, and a really good people-to-people dialogue kind of process might involve a hundred people. So that's 100 to 10 million, that's five orders of magnitude difference, and when you start to think, the human mind has a hard time comprehending numbers that big. We do things at the scale of a few hundred people and we get surprised when it doesn't work on the scale of millions. We have got to start thinking in terms of conflict interventions that operate on the scale of millions. That's what Carl Rove is good at, that's what propaganda theory, the manipulation of mass media. We got really good at doing that for destructive purposes. That same kind of destructive stuff is done on the left as well as the right, though at the moment I'm finding the right to be in particular, as we are talking the day after John Kerry's defeat in his bid to beat George Bush. But thinking in terms of this scale, it isn't just making it bigger. What makes a society of millions of people is specialization. There are enormous complex structures, there are a zillion social roles, it operates in a very chaotic environment. You have to start thinking in terms of interventions and actions not just as something a facilitator can do around a table, but you've got to start thinking in terms of people in lots and lots of different roles can do to improve things. That requires a whole different image of how you think about problem solving. The United States is a country that prides itself on building gadgets. We have great engineers and a few things we excel at and one of those is gadgets. And gadgets imply that you have an engineer who goes out and knows what he wants the machine he's going to build to do, and he goes out and designs it and builds it. Then tries it out, if it doesn't work, then, "Well, yeah I forgot to do this," then he goes back and redesigns it until it works. Then they make a zillion copies of it and people start using it and if it breaks then people know how it works. You think in terms of design and there is a sense of doing that in the conflict field as well. We talk about dispute systems design as if we're going to design this whole process in which people handle disputes and when you think about the complexity and scale, it's not going to happen. The alternative strategy, and the thing about the social system and the human body are biological systems, is that nobody every designed them, the evolved and they have staggering complexity and they're chaotic. So the way doctors who've figured out how to deal with the fact that they're trying to fix a system that they don't understand is that they take a pathology treatment approach. Sometime they don't let you know that they know that they don't know everything, but the core of the medical approach is that you try to identify pathologies, which are subsystems within the human body or the larger system that are having undesirable consequences. So once you do that, then you can try to figure out ways of interrupting that disease or injury process. In medicine, they are a bunch of injuries and diseases that we know how to outright cure; you get strep throat, yet get antibiotics and you're fine, you break your leg, they set it, it grows back and you're almost as good as new. There are other kinds of diseases that we understand, hay fever comes to mind, that we can't cure, but we can provide symptomatic relief and make it not so miserable. There are others that we say, "Well, we can't cure it, but you'll get over it, you've got your own immune system that will somehow handle it." Then there are other ones that they can't cure and you get hospice care basically. The same sort of principles apply to conflict. We can't make the whole system with which society deals with conflict perfect. Can't design it. But we can identify pathological dynamics that make it especially bad. And some of these we know how to fix. There are terrible conflicts that arise out of misunderstandings and people just think someone else is doing something terrible when they're not, and we know how to fix that. There are other things were there are continuing tensions between some groups and we can provide some symptomatic relief, but we can't make everything better. What we can do is embark on a program of improved dispute resolution. So the whole image is that we're taking what is already a process. And the truth is that societies handle conflicts remarkably well. If it didn't, you wouldn't be able to have basically functioning societies among hundreds of millions of people. The fact that we exist here at all shows that we're not really all that bad, just every so often things really get out of hand. There is a potential for a "perfect storm" conflict that is catastrophic on a grand scale, especially in the age of weapons of mass destruction.
Q: Let's look at what we have here. We have some scale-up issues, some media possibilities, complexity of systems. I am fascinated by the complexity theorists and people that bring in ant farms and enormous patterns of birds flying through the sky to illustrate systems and their complexity and how the whole is greater than the sum of it's parts. I'm always asking for questions, illustrations, pictures of some sort of intervention or example of some sort of conflict engagement strategy that does make it up to the systemic level. Just to sort of get a picture of the possibilities, obviously there could be a million different scenarios, but can you think of one in particular, an illustration of something that either dealt with the pathology of the sub-system that was ailing the system or somehow made it up? You gave Carl Rowe as an example of some manipulation on the destructive side. Search for Common Ground comes to mind with media on the constructive side.
A: Search for Common Ground has done some very interesting things. They've figured out that costs of mass media productions in third-world countries is miniscule, especially given the new technologies, compared to what you'd expect to spend to make it into the mass TV market in the United States. They've done some fascinating things where they have radio soap operas where they feature characters on both sides of an ethnic divide that once a week or once every however long for a half-hour or an hour they get involved in some sort of interesting fight. It might be humorous and they eventually work it out somehow, and with good writing that could play out very nicely. There are tricks like that, and to really make that fly in a high-value media market is going to be sort of a trick, especially given that there are enormous profits to be made in the production of television and movies that sort of build off of existing tensions and hatreds. But there are other possibilities. Disarming behavior, where you have two sides involved in a conflict that everybody has stereotypes of the evil other side that is convinced that they would never ever do something reasonable. If a leader on one of those sides were to defy those stereotypes then it would change everything. Anwar Sadat's trip to Jerusalem, didn't think that would ever happen, but it did. It's like "Wow, maybe we can negotiate this stuff." It wasn't easy and Anwar Sadat paid with his life. There is another sort of depressing sub-story of great peacemakers getting assassinated. A really difficult problem is the actual physical violent targeting of peacemakers. This isn't just the high-profile Gandhis and Kings but it also happens at the level of the humanitarian NGOs, what we're seeing in Iraq at the moment. You can force the peacemakers off the stage that way, at least keep them off in sufficient numbers. But it's still this kind of courage to do something that changes the mindset and it can be tremendously powerful. Ideas can spread with astonishing speed, but it isn't easy to do. I think one of the areas where the field really needs to work is to look for examples of people who've managed to pull this off.
Q: And people who've made it out with their lives? Nelson Mandela comes to mind, constantly sending birthday cards to De Klerk while he was in prison.
A: The roster of Nobel Peace Prize winners, though it has some strange people on it from time to time, tends to feature folks who fought for social justice in a nonviolent and constructive way somehow. That's a good window into what's possible. A lot of these are small-scale things - this campaign to ban land mines. There's a Margaret Mead quote that goes around, "Never underestimate the power of small groups of dedicated people to change the world. For in fact only small groups..." I forget how it goes. But I think the real frontier is to think big and the conflict resolution peace field thinks of itself as folks who think small. Time and time again these really very compelling arguments about how it is so important to stay with the community, none of these things where you parachute in, fix things then parachute back out again, you've got to be there. And you've got to spend time and you've really got to sit down and you've got to understand people. But when you think about the scale, you've got to do something more than that. One of the reasons we're so fascinated by the Internet, is that it has the ability to eliminate what we call information friction. John Paul Lederach has been running around giving speeches about what he calls the moral imagination. These are folks who, in a broad range of social roles that are confronted with destructive conflict, decide that they're just not going to take it any more. They taken an often very courageous and personally dangerous stand to stop things somehow. Whether it's a group of women in a third-world country that band together to defend the market place as a place that women in every ethnic group can come, or he talks about a college professor that became an intermediary, and put his life on the line to bring together two sides of a civil war. But there are lots of stories like this, and the problem is that when people get involved in terrible things, they want to do something different. You can just sort of invent it yourself but this is a difficult, dangerous thing to do and it's fraught with traps and most people who try will in some way or another fail. So there is a real need for people to hear inspirational stories from other folks in similar circumstances about what they tried, what worked, what didn't work. To reduce this really difficult process of essentially reinventing the wheel that conventional education and training programs just can't do it.
Q: By conventional you mean skill building, mediator, negotiation training.
A: University education, professional training programs of one sort or another. Basically non-Internet-based things. For example, if you have a conflict problem, and you also usually have to deal with these things in a really short time frame, so something appears and you've got to deal with it within a few days, it's not something you get to mull over for months or years. If you go to the University and say, "I've got this horrible conflict problem," and they'll say, "Well we have degree programs, you can apply next fall and by next spring we'll let you know if you in and we only want a few years of your life." Then they probably won't quite wind up teaching you what you needed to know anyway. Professional training programs are a little better, but you call up even the good ones and they'll want $1,000 or $1,500. They'll want a week and they'll have semi-one-size-fits-all programs, then the nearest one is going to be three cities over and it's not going to be for two months and it's not going to talk about what you're really interested in. You can go get books, but books tend to be, you have a print run and if it's going to be relatively accessible it's also got to be written for a lot of audiences, so books tend to be not too terribly specialized. The mass media in the days of newspapers and television it's hard to be able to find a story that's about just what you're interested in at the time you're interested in it. But the Web can basically deliver custom-tailored, instant mini-lessons to people at far less cost than any other means of communication, it's still not universally accessible, but it's to the point where Web-based information is cheaper than anything else. And it's a whole different way of writing and thinking and managing a body of knowledge. We've been working to figure out how to do it, we're getting better, but it isn't easy. It's theoretically possible.
Q: Managing and quality are the two things that come to mind for me in terms of Web-based available help. How do you know what quality it is? How do you find it exactly the way you want it? I always have this image that it's out there, it's just buried under a different name.
A: What you've got to have is programs, like the one we're trying to construct, that can find it, evaluate it, index it and package it in a way that makes it findable. Google is pretty impressive, but it's not even remotely suited for something like this. There is a tendency of the Web...I have a couple stories I'd like to tell. The general pitch is the dismal theorem of the Internet -- and this is a pitch we make to foundations on occasion - is that the Internet is rapidly driving out all other forms of research information. If you don't believe this then just teach a class and try to get students to go to a library or anything. What they will do is they will go on to the Web and they can find something on anything and what they find is what they'll base their ideas on. If philanthropic foundations are willing to put up the relatively modest amounts of money that it takes to make sure the good information is on the Web, that's what they'll find and use. If they don't, then you'll wind up having to deal with the fact that the Web is the greatest vanity publishing system of all time. One of my favorite stories is that a colleague's daughter did a school project where she was researching a particular butterfly. And she looked it up on the Web and found an article on that precise butterfly. The problem is, it was written by a kindergartener. So in order to make the Web work, you have to beat that somehow.
Q: It brings to mind the Maoist notion of education, where if you knew one letter more than your neighbor then you went and taught that one letter to your neighbor. If you knew your alphabet from A-E and your neighbor knew it from A-D then it was your responsibility to teach him the E so the kindergartener that knows something more about the butterfly than you do has a responsibility to teach you. What about the airplane model of conflict?
A: The problem of dealing with conflict on a large, sort of society-wide scale, is a bit analogous to building a complex aircraft. You need a whole lot of different parts. You can't fly an airplane with just a jet engine, you need wings, you needs control surfaces, you need avionics, you need a seat for the pilot, fuel tanks, all sorts of stuff. Mediation is just one of the pieces, a whole range of humanitarian relief things are just one of the pieces. Policing, there are a whole range of techniques used to limit the use of violent force. You take all of the conflict-related institutions, then you start thinking of conflict as not just mediation, but a whole range of things. Maybe like Bill Ury's "Third Siders" but more diversified than that. You've got to have all of those pieces. Just like an airplane, you can have designs for all of the pieces of the airplane and a couple of each one. If you don't have enough of each piece the plane won't fly. If you wind of having 90% of the pieces, it won't fly. What the whole sort of large peace-related field has been doing over the last however many decades is developing a number of different pieces. We know a lot more about peacekeeping operations, we know a lot more about negotiation, we know about restorative justice, but they are all just pieces. Now the folks that fund them seem to believe that by just funding one of the pieces, you can make the whole airplane fly. And partly, they get that idea because it's so hard to get the money, that the people that make the pieces oversell how important they are. But if we're going to really deal with the problem of conflict, in a sense we have to grow up and make all these pieces, and we have to come up with a plan for the whole airplane. And we've got to make sure there are people picking up each piece. Once you figure it out, you acquire each piece in enough quantities. If you go into a country that needs 100,000 peacekeepers and you have 1,000, it isn't going to work, no matter how good your plan. So in other words, you have to start to think big and we're a field that doesn't like to think big. It isn't just like building a big airplane because this goes back to the complexity and chaos, because we don't really know how to do all the pieces, but you can do enough and deal with enough of the pathologies that you can have a major qualitative improvement in the way that conflict is carried out.
Q: Is there an illustration of something moderately comparable to the construction of that airplane come to mind in the field?
A: I just got back from a weekend with several professors from West Point, talking about what it would really take to be successful with our invasion of Iraq and to really establish a decently functioning democracy. You come away with ??? there were all these pieces that were needed that weren't there. There's a security piece that you needed to bring in all the reconstruction and the humanitarian relief folks and it's not there, so all the humanitarian relief stuff, which is so essential, is not there. There weren't enough -- in sort of the initial invasion and Iraq is kind of an externally-induced revolution -- there weren't enough soldiers to secure the weapons and there apparently wasn't really a plan to go in and secure the weapons right off the bat. So you miss that piece, and then you have a huge security problem in a country awash with pretty heavy-duty weapons. So that is one of the pieces that wasn't there.
Q: Yeah, it sounds like we missed the landing gear on that plane.
A: It's an unfolding tragedy, and when one thinks about what it would take to fix it, I'm not sure there's an answer. I'm very worried about it at the moment.
Q: What was the perspective of the West Pointers?
A: They understood absolutely what was going on, they were very clear about it, very interested in the work that we're doing. They don't think that soldiers should be in the business of being diplomats and peacemakers, but they realize that in case, after case, after case, they're being asked to do that, so they'd better learn. They're used to thinking of a hierarchically-oriented command and control institution and peacemaking isn't that. So you need to figure out ways to adapt some of our insights that they can use and they need to understand how their work relates to work of the other peace-related fields and how they can provide the logistical support and the security that they need to do their work and start thinking in terms of the big operation. It might be possible to save countries that are confronted with this kind of terrible tyranny, if we can figure out how to do it. I don't think it's impossible, but it sure isn't easy. One of my colleagues was a survivor of the communist regime in Romania and grew up in the Soviet-era tyranny and lost her father to the government and talks about how people who've never lived in a society like that just can't imagine just how horrible it is and how much the everyday people want somebody to come save them. So I'm not of the mind that we should never try to do something like this.
Q: I actually have her recorded saying that.
A: But if we're going to do it, we ought to try real hard to do it right, we ought to learn what we did wrong so we don't do it again.
Q: Yeah, do no harm comes to mind in that situation.
Q: Ok, so there is a place where we know there are some parts missing from the airplane, do you have an example of where it got off the ground and landed okay? Do you have any big project examples that we can learn from? Do we have any systemic interventions that we can use to think or conceive of ways of intervening in present or future conflicts?
A: I'm not really as good as I should be with nice, clean examples of success stories.
Q: Do you have like a Marshall Plan-type thing?
A: There have certainly been big public policy negotiation things that have worked out pretty well. There have been peace arrangements, the one between Israelis and Egyptians comes to mind, the Camp David negotiation worked, it's stuck now for 20 years, not without problems. There are a lot of things that work reasonably well. The whole establishment of the European Union is an enormous accomplishment when you think about how many different societies, speaking how many different languages, with how long of a history of antagonism. It's fairly miraculous; you know if you want to make it work you can do pretty well. One thing to think about is that you don't want to fall into the trap of having to totally fix something to think that you've made things better. The test is not the resolution of conflict; the test is more constructive conflict.
Q: The European example is very amazing because it was very explicitly economic and it was also very explicitly relational. Jean Monet had this very clear idea of improving relations between the French and the Germans and also economics project. I don't think in our field we tend to make so explicit multiple foci. The European Union, would that qualify as an airplane?
A: It's getting close to it. I don't know enough about it, but it's certainly made remarkable progress over the last decades. Maybe it's a good example because the conflict things that work don't resolve things, they just sort of allow a progressive improvement. One of my lines that I like is, "Peacebuilding is really the process of turning Clausewitz upside down." Clausewitz is the guy that said that, "War is the continuation of diplomacy, or non-violent conflict resolution, by other means and peace isn't the resolution of conflict but it's the ability to continue war, that is serious conflict, by non-violent means." So I think part of where we may have gone wrong with the collapse of the Oslo process is this image that we were crafting the final solution of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. When what we should have been doing, and to a significant degree what we were trying to do, is establish a non-violent system through which that conflict can continue to play out over time because there are obviously an enormous number of difficult issues that need to be grappled with, but the key to peace is not resolving conflict; it's dealing with it non-violently or at least dealing with it a lot less violently.
Q: Right which brings into question the phrase "conflict resolution," which is funny that we, as a field, have adopted it so fully when from the very start, like you mentioned in the beginning, there was a lot of resistance to the phrase, and justifiably so it seems. Do you think it's something we need to dump? Last night there was a conversation of a lot of conflict resolution professionals who were sort of shying away from the phrase.
A: I've been an awful lot of meetings where one argues and argues about which words we ought to use for what. Is it peacebuilding? Is it peace processes? Does peacebuilding parallel with peacekeeping? And life is just too messy for that. We need clearer words; folks often misunderstand what we're saying. We need to be clearer about, we need some words for this sort of large-scale, some are calling it, meta-peace process that combines all the different wings of the peace field together, in order to be able to describe what we're doing. There are an awful lot of turf issues tied up with different terms. There are conflicts over the use of words. I've sort of come to the conclusion that the ideas that matter are relatively clear, the words are difficult and the only way to get by is that you pick whatever word you want to use and you make a habit of defining it, up front, every time you use it, in an unobtrusive way. You don't want to say, "Well for dummies who don't know, peacebuilding is..." but you have to be clear about what you're saying and you have to have this common vocabulary, but there are so many different words running around that you almost have to define the terms every time you use them, which is a bit cumbersome, but I don't see any way around it.
Q: Let's see, you mentioned a few, but are there lessons learned?
A: For the field? I think that we're at the threshold of a new generation of ideas, and part of the threshold is that we sort of run up against the limits of what we are able to do with these old table-oriented processes, and if we're going to get further, we've got to move in to larger-scale situations, we've got to deal with complexity. The other really big one that we haven't talked about, and this also is tied up in all sorts of word problems, but conflict analysis and resolution as it's been practiced has a very much academically-oriented, rational spin to it. It's the kind of thing that would come out of universities and we know it's not the only way in which people learn and we know it's not the only way people think and know things.
Q: The rational way?
A: The nice, rational, academic way. There is no better proof for this than the fact that the folks who are experts at this, don't really follow their own advice when they're in the midst of a conflict. But there is this whole non-rational side, this is not to use the word non-rational in a pejorative sense, it has a higher subjectivity and emotional quotient to it, but to just say its emotional, doesn't quite get it. There is a whole different way of learning and knowing that stands apart somehow, certainly the relationship with rational though process is complicated, that we've got to figure out how to master and work in or we're not going to get very far. But it isn't enough to say, "Well, just be emotional and let it all hang out," because those emotions can do a wonderful job of reinforcing all the evil stereotypes, and hatreds and destructive relationships that there are. So the frontier is how to do that. We've been talking up a twenty-year agenda for the field and we tend to think in small terms. I guess maybe a good story to end with here, is I think what the field faces is something similar to where we were in the fight against cancer in the late '60s. I grew up with the threat of polio, I had a friend who came down with polio and I was terrified. Polio was a scary disease. All of a sudden we went down, I still remember going to my elementary school and they had a whole big tray of sugar cubes with this funny pink liquid that had been dropped into them, and they all went down the row and we all got a sugar cube, and that was the end of polio. So we got this bright idea, "Well heck we can do that with cancer," so Richard Nixon initiated the war on cancer, now thirty years ago, and there is no vaccine, there is no simple cure. What we've discovered about cancer is it's an enormously complex class of diseases, the treatments have to be carefully tailored to a particular genetic make-up of each cancer sufferer. Some things we know, a lot of things we don't. That's how it was with conflict, we had this idea that getting to yes and interest-based bargaining was the magic sugar cube, and we discovered that it isn't and that conflict is this big terrible mess, but if we don't start the kind of long-term effort to really understand it and grapple with the tough problems, as we have been doing with cancer, we're never going to figure it out. And we get the sense that there is chronic conflict. You know so many people die every year because of conflict and we can handle that, it's been going on pretty much every year like that as long as I can remember. But there is the potential of the "perfect storm" conflict, where you get a coincidence of things and you can produce something that's vastly more serious than anything we've really imagined. If we don't get on the task of really understanding and grappling with these problems, before the perfect storm shows up, we won't have much of a prayer. But the investment in this is miniscule. I'm pretty certain that the total real budget of peace related research might buy you a few parts on a jet fighter and given the amount of money that we put into long-shot security systems, this really aught to be worth as much funding as some of the long-shot things that DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Products Agency, the guys that buy a lot of really silly things, but some of the stuff works, they invented the Internet. But we've got to invest in it, but we're not going to do that until we can change the public image of what the field has to offer, and we're not going to do that until we show them that we can grapple with the hard questions, and that we've got something more to offer than getting to yes and interest-based bargaining and win-win solutions.
Q: Well I hope you're right about being on the verge of the next generation because I know we could use it down in Argentina.
A: Well, it's the sort of thing that, if it's going to happen, the people who are interested in it are going to have to make it happen. Nobody's going to do it for you.