Статья 'World Models and Technologies of Psychological Impact to Resolve International Conflicts' - журнал 'Мировая политика' - NotaBene.ru
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World Politics

World Models and Technologies of Psychological Impact to Resolve International Conflicts

Manoilo Andrei Viktorovich

Doctor of Politics

Professor, the department of Russian Politics at the faculty of Political Science, Moscow State University

199992, Russia, Moscow, Lomonosovsky Prospekt 27, building #4, office #G-638

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Abstract: International relations are more and more often becoming the field of political conflicts. Despite the fact that the epoch of global confrontation has come to an end, the total number of political conflicts in the world is not only on the decline, but rather continues to be on the rise, and are manifested in new forms, with a low likelihood of responding to stabilizing impacts of traditional instruments of political management. Modern day conflicts have become one of the leading factors of instability in the world today. Because they are poorly managed, they have the tendency to escalate and to draw in a greater and greater number of participants, which creates a threat not only to those who are directly involved in the conflict, but to everyone else as well.


the international relations, the international safety, political conflicts, conflicts management technologies, conflicts management models, psychological operations, information war, political, interests, the UN

This article written in Russian. You can find original text of the article here .

International relations is more and more often becoming the field of political conflicts [1, p. 14].

In addition to an intensification of traditional form and methods of political competition, ethnic factors are playing a greater and greater role in international relations: in modern day conflicts that more and more often are characterized by a clash of civilizations, the central problem is how to preserve values and national identity, the destruction and transformation of which today is the primary goal of political aggression. Today Kosovo is an example of this, where there is a clash of value systems of the Christian Orthodox civilization, with the radical directions of ethnic Islam and aggressive social and cultural traditions of American Protestant faith. Another clear example is the ethno-political conflict that had its roots in the very center of Europe in France between the native population of the country and immigrant communities from Muslim countries of Northern Africa, belonging to different cultural traditions and civilizations. They do not share European values, and on principle refuse to accept policies of cultural integration. Also, as they accumulate their own resources, they begin to declare themselves a new political force. A similar situation is happening with ethnic groups in Great Britain as well, where it has been necessary to thoroughly revisit the openness of its borders. The political conflict itself to a large extant loses the characteristics of a “conflict of interests” and is becoming a “conflict of values,” the very nature of which and the methods of political solutions are today essentially not recognized.

Meanwhile, international efforts to mitigate foreign political conflicts is undergoing a systematic crisis, needing not only a search for new approaches and means to impact conflict situations, but it also needs to form new paradigms for managing political conflicts. It is not by accident that a leading scholar and international specialist A.V. Torkunov stresses the need to redesign methodologies of social science research, and the creation of “a new methodological paradigm,” in which social psychology and “the management of processes enabling a person to perceive life’s realities, and to manage reflexes” should given a special place of honor [2]. Under these conditions the value of information and psychological warfare technologies increases multifold in the management of modern conflicts as a real alternative to forceful measures “imposing peace” and “humanitarian interventions.”

Today there are a number of known examples in which information psychological warfare technologies to impact international conflicts have been used to stabilize and resolve such conflicts. However, these technologies are not universal and are characterized by their individual cultural/civilization and national state features that reflect differences in world outlook on existing world civilizations to resolve conflict situations. These differences are manifested quite obviously in the foreign policies of leading world actors: methods use by the USA and Great Britain, reflecting the Anglo-Saxon civilization, differ considerably from the methods and warfare technologies to impact a crisis situation among counties in the Asia, the Middle East, and even in the European Union. Existing cultural and civilization differentiation in methods and technologies of psychological warfare need to be applied to research models of resolving modern day conflicts by using and array of instruments and methods that involve a culturally sensitive approach.

In contemporary conflictology special attention is given to managing conflict behavior, which presupposes an account for cultural and psychological nuances of peoples. The problem of liberating an ethnic group, a greater community forms first and foremost on the basis on cultural self-identification with respect to other communities. Correspondingly, the behavior of people is defined by the cultural, national, and ethic civilization to which they belong.

If one mechanically transfers the technologies of information and psychological warfare from one cultural/civilization milieu to another, without taking into account its cultural features, this can lead to a worsening escalation of the conflict [3: p. 184-185]. Such negative consequences were the results in 2006 of information and psychological actions in Denmark, France and other European nations that used caricature drawings of the prophet Mohammed. This particular information action not only elicited a scandal, but rather led to a cultural/civilization confrontation between Islamic and European civilizations, whose resolution required considerable efforts by political and religious leaders.

Overall, when operating from cultural/civilization criteria, it is possible to identify four primary approaches to using information psychological warfare technologies in modern international conflicts:

- Anglo-Saxon (representatives of the USA, Great Britain, and countries of the British Commonwealth);

- Eastern Asiatic (China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Japan);

- Roman-Germanic (Germany, France, Italy, Scandinavian countries);

- Middle Eastern (Islamic factor: the Arab world, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Turkey, Indonesia).

Rooted in the foundation of the Anglo-Saxon model is the historically relatively young ideology and Protestant world outlook rooted in its consciousness and creeping into its subconscious: the three primary American ideological concepts are – “exporting democracy,” “forceful peacekeeping,” and “velvet revolutions” – which are in essence restructuring and development of the fundamental norms of the Protestant world outlook. Rooted in the foundation of the traditional Eastern Asiatic model, primarily lies a Confucian world outlook and ideology, as well as in the philosophic teachings of Lao Tsu. Rooted in the foundation of the Roman-Germanic model, primarily lies significant experience in the conflicting coexistence of a host of different peoples within a very crowded Europe (“a communal apartment”), as well as historical, cultural and religious traditions of Catholicism, complemented by elements of a later form of European Protestantism. And in the foundations of the Middle Eastern model, formed in the cultural and civilization traditions of various Islamic directions and trends, lies the historical experience of broadening the area of distribution and influence of the Islamic world.

Differences in culture and civilization are more starkly defined in modern doctrines and concepts of psychological warfare, specifically among representatives of the Anglo-Saxon civilization: the USA and Great Britain. Today psychological operations are built by them within the framework of two fundamental ideological concepts:

- the concept of “harsh force” (presented y the neorealism school of K. Woltz, R. Gilpin, B. Buzan [4: pp. 30-21]), based on the priority principle of “forceful peacekeeping,” within the context of which it is considered to be morally justified to use preventative armed force against the conflict participants, if there are significant indications that the conflict may become a threat to the political stability in the region and may escalate into a humanitarian catastrophe;

- the concept of “gentle force” (represented by the school of neoliberalism [5: pp. 12-45], is based on the ideological position of “exporting democracy” in combination with an aggressive missionary tradition of American Protestantism and technologies of the so-called “velvet revolutions” (“fostering democracy”) -- methods of non-violent changes in the constitutional structure in user-countries of the American model of societal development.

The two concepts in the Anglo-Saxon models do not duplicate themselves, but rather mutual complement each other, differing exclusively by the speed at which the desired political result is achieved:

- the concept of “harsh force” is very effective for forcing the opposition into coercion with the goal of obtaining political advantages in that particular point in the political process. Moreover, the principle of “forceful peacekeeping” makes it possible to used methods of forced coercion in peaceful times as well, under the gauze of global peacemaking activity;

- as a rule, the concept of “gentle force,» is intended for a later result, and the preparation for conducting of such psychological operations like the “velvet revolutions” take time. However, the impact of the “gentle force” technologies is preserved over the course of a much longer period of time: pro-American governments in countries, in which “velvet revolutions” succeeded, are still in power and conduct a foreign policy that is completely geared toward the national interests of the USA.

The concept of “forceful peacekeeping” presupposes that the preventative use of armed forces by developed democratic nations is justified, that nations of the western world that have built in their countries “the most perfect” models of a democratic society today, are more capable of more quickly and more effectively evaluating the threats to democracy, arising as a result of the conception and escalation of new conflicts, than traditional collegiate bodies and institution (such as the UN), to which a sufficiently large number of counties belong, having “under-developed democracy,” and whose world outlook hinders them from making a timely assessment of danger. Moreover, the primary feature of an international threat of a conflict is “world-wide public opinion” (which quite often is specially formulated and geared toward specific reactions) and whose assessment of a crisis situation is considered more valuable and timely that the reaction of traditional international institutions (UN, OSCE), and always outpaces the official position of the UN, thereby diminishing its role and discrediting the capabilities of this organizations ability to react in a timely manner to threats to international security. One of the technologies used to influence public opinion within the framework of “forceful peacekeeping” is the technology used to form the image of international terrorism.

Unlike “forceful peacekeeping,” the concept of “gentle force” is the technology for ensuring a voluntary submission of other subjects of international law, based on the declaration of absolute superiority in the sphere of ideology, policies, economics and morals. Moreover, this submission should be voluntary, which determines the priority level of applying non-forceful methods. First and foremost, these include information and psychological warfare technologies to influence consciousness that are used in modern day operations of psychological warfare. One of the best examples of how these technologies have been used in practice, is the so-called “velvet revolution,” and the fundamental ideology that made this overtly expansionist course of action attractive to the mass consciousness, was that it was the almost religious mission to “export democracy,” equitable to the Crusades.

The East Asian methods of information and psychological impact on the flow of a conflict are based on traditional value systems, first and foremost, that of Confucianism that remain, despite the ideological winds, the foundation of world outlook of China and other societies of Southeast Asia. The traditional values of Confucian etiquette are determined not only by the relationships within families, but also in the relationships among various social thinkers [6: p. 24]. Not only in China, but also in Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and in other Southeast Asian countries, Confucian etiquette dominates the public opinion, and without understanding this, it is difficult to influence public opinion with any other methods.

Russian scholars stress the unusually durability of individual features of China’s foreign policy doctrines over its more than 3,000 year history that continue to function in today’s world. “First and foremost, this is a reference to the traditions of general principles, writes A.A. Bokshanin, that have been rooted in the foundation of foreign political relations and some characteristic features of Chinese diplomatic practice” [7: p. 129]. As a rule, Beijing does not force events, awaiting much better times in its disagreements with its opponents, striving initially, to “stake out its position,” declare, for example, claims to a number of islands in the South China Sea, or to keep the issue of disputed territory open ended for some “indefinite period of time,” just like in the early 70’s of the twentieth century during a period or normalization of relations with Japan over the disputed ownership of the Senkaku islands.

The overall international situation and the relationships of forces which have undoubtedly changed over many decades can be resolved to China’s advantage without conflict. “Postponed decisions” is a very convenient form of psychological warfare. The problem remains unresolved, and can always be used as an instrument for informational pressure, including in negotiations. In contemporary China old stereotypes are falling by the wayside, it is freeing itself from its “inferiority complex,” and supporters of the rebirth of this great nation are calling to “take initiative into our own hands and conduct our affairs with other great leaders on an equal playing field, and stand by our position on how to mitigate international crises” [9: p. 340].

Unlike Eastern Asia, Europe has its own particular features, such that since the Peace of Westphalia on the continent in 1648, the principle of ethnic identification, and nation states as primary participants in international relations was laid in the foundations of institutionalization of social thinkers. But, ethnic differentiation after the collapse of Karl the Great’s Empire led to a multitude of interethnic conflicts, including world wars. After WWII, the process of ethnic and national differentiation did not subside, but engendered new open conflicts, for example in the Balkans, and were hidden, latent in Belgium, Spain, Greece and in other countries.

Leading nations of the European Union, first and foremost, Germany and France, as well as Belgium, Spain, and Italy, lumped together here conditionally into the category of Roman-Germanic civilization, when using information and psychological warfare technologies to influence conflicts, adhere to the tactic of psychological control, but with consideration for the nuances of the nation state involved. The Western European model of psychological warfare to influence conflicts does not use direct intervention to change the political systems of the participants, but rather strives to control the mentality of the political elite in power in the nation states embroiled in the conflict, as well as to control the mindset of various strata of the local population and the international community, encouraging them to perceive the conflict the way it is proposing it, i.e. to see the conflict through the eyes of the European Community.

Unlike the EU, the Islamic world, despite its title as a united cultural group of one civilization, in reality is represented by a complex mosaic. The disintegration of Islam into a multitude of religious and legal schools and movements speaks to the fact that the differences, and the peculiarities of each branch sometimes predominate over the general principles and dogma of the religion. The differences in the dogma of Islam touch not only the foundations of the teachings of the faith, but also the spheres of social, cultural, and political life and economic relations.

With respect to geography and geopolitical relations, the “Muslim world” is broken down into the center and the periphery, into territories and countries with both Arab and non-Arab populations, into regions where Island was born and developed, and into “secondary Islamic” space. For example, Islam from Turkey in the Povolzhe region differs from that of Middle Eastern Islam. In a number of CIS countries, Islam has blended in with local traditions. For example, in Kazakhstan mazhab Khanafi Sunnism we tolerate as heterodoxy, but it does not reject the local customs, and has blended with the local traditions of Tengrianstvo..

At the same time Khanafi. Sunnism of the Bakhkhabit. type (Saudia Arabia, Emirates) calls for a brutal battle for “pure Islam,” its followers differ in terms of fanaticism and extremism in defending the dogmas of the faith, in confrontation with their political opponents. The practice of political life gives way to a plurality of testimonies of religious wars within Islam, continuing to this day in the form of political confrontation between the Sunnis and the Shiites in Iraq.

In this regard, methods and applications of information and psychological warfare on the masses of believers preserves general characteristics advantageous in an intercivilization confrontation, an ideological battle with another religion, culture, and at the same time within the Islamic уммы there is just as vicious a battle going on to confirm the reigning influence over the mentality of one or another school or branch. Because of this, it is paramount that we examine the methods of information and psychological impact on Islam on three levels: in terms of civilization, regional and national, which, to a certain extent, corresponds to the level of existing international conflicts. In terms of civilization, and, in essence, global level, Islam is serving as an alternative to the western liberal, democratic world: in Islamic doctrine there exist and understanding and an interpretation of world order, which Islam is striving to provoke within zones of international conflicts. This is essentially the essence of the Middle Eastern model of psychological solutions to conflict resolution.

Thus, today’s models of psychological solutions to modern day conflicts are represented y at least a minimum of four different forms of culture and civilization, and each of them has its own unique qualities that set them apart.

The Anglo-Saxon model sees the conflict resolution process as something that requires a forced transformation of opposing political systems and an adoption of its norms and standards. The Eastern Asiatic model sees the conflict resolution process as an integration into (and, in reality, a building into of) political systems and values of the two conflicting parties into its own system of political relations (for example, along the principle of “one country – two systems”, gradually dissolving into a system a national identity of political systems of weaker participants of international relation. The Middle Eastern (Islamic) model sees the conflict resolution process as something in transit, a projection of historically culminated traditional mechanisms for regulating socio-political relations in conflict zones, including by expanding the area of dispersal and influence of the Islamic world. The Roman-Germanic or Western European model sees the conflict resolution process as changes in the opinions of the participants of the conflict and not the conflict itself.

Russia, located at the crossroads of interests of Anglo-Saxon, East Asian, Middle Eastern and Western European politics, has two possible choices when it comes to formulating its own political world view in terms of the forms and means to resolves modern day conflicts: either following one of the models listed above, or to find its own way, combining into its national policies the strengths of all three fundamental approaches, and, if possible, avoid their shortcomings.

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