Kyle Beardsley on Gilad Shalit

Kyle Beardsley, the author of The Mediation Dilemma, has written this thoughtful piece about the mediated prisoner swap for Gilad Shalit:

The Swap for Shalit and the Long-Term Risks of Mediation

The mediated prisoner swap that allowed Sergeant Gilad Shalit to return home has raised two different concerns about its effect on Israeli security: the fear that the released Palestinians will resume their armed struggle against Israel and the fear that this will encourage Hamas and other terrorist groups to capture more soldiers for a similar ransom. While both concerns are real, they are easily exaggerated and miss the more important damage done to intra-Palestinian relations.

The first concern tends to ignore the fact that the greatest threat to Israeli security is no longer suicide bombers or armed militants but rather rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip and southern Lebanon, which are virtually unaffected by this prisoner exchange. The second concern tends to focus too much on the ultimate payoff and overlooks the fact that it took six years to reach a deal; meanwhile, Israel escalated its fight against Hamas. The ransom for Mr. Shalit was neither immediate nor easy to attain.

More importantly, these concerns distract from perhaps a bigger concern regarding what the deal means to the authority problem among the Palestinians. Since at least the 2006 Palestinian National Authority elections and the intra-Palestinian civil war that followed–and arguably well before 2006–no single entity has been able to claim being the legitimate voice of the Palestinian people. For a moment it seemed as if Mahmoud Abbas had begun to gain the needed legitimacy as he took the call for Palestinian statehood to the UN and has received widespread support for the formation of a Palestinian state. That moment is now over as the Hamas leadership proved more than capable in working with the Egyptians and Germans to produce the deal to release hundreds of–potentially over a thousand–Palestinian prisoners.

The authority problem is not only an issue for the Palestinians, but it also is a crucial reason for why a lasting peace with Israel remains elusive. Any deal with Abbas and his Fatah party is meaningless if the Palestinians have split allegiances. If the problem of extremist violence spoiling the peace process was an issue when power was relatively consolidated in the hands of Yasser Arafat, the spoiler problem will be much worse when power is most clearly not consolidated. The more that Israel and the international community treat–and treat with–Hamas and Fatah as having distinct constituencies, the further we are from ever realizing a peace deal between Israel and some entity that represents the Palestinians.

It turns out that this dynamic is fairly typical of mediated outcomes, which often do quite well in the immediate-gratification department and less well in yielding durable peace. In recent cross-national studies, I have found that international conflicts that experience mediation are more likely to realize short-term concessions and agreements but also become more likely to relapse after a few years of peace.

The deal that brought Mr. Shalit home has the potential to share the same tradeoff between short-term and long-term success. On the one hand, Egypt’s role was essential to having any possibility of reaching a deal. Having the prisoners first released to Egypt solved a major issue as either side risked having the other side back out once it had fulfilled its obligations. In addition, mediator involvement allowed for a deal to be reached without face-to-face negotiation and the mutual recognition that could imply.

On the other hand, Egypt and Germany’s role has the potential to further lengthen the detour toward peace in the Middle East. Just as the 1993 signing of the Oslo Accords—with the handshake between Arafat and Rabin on the White House lawn—did wonders for the consolidation of Arafat’s authority, there is a real risk that this landmark prisoner swap has bolstered Hamas’ credibility as a legitimate representative of the Palestinians and reduced the fruitfulness of any Israeli negotiations with Abbas.

Although Israel has much to celebrate in the return of a lost son and little reason to worry that the deal worsens its immediate security, the long-term damage to the peace process that must precede an ultimate Israeli-Palestinian deal–between the Palestinian factions–is likely to prove substantial.

Kyle Beardsley on Gilad Shalit

The Remnants of War praised by Steven Pinker

At The Browser, Steven Pinker, author most recently of The Better Angels of Our Nature: The Decline of Violence in History and Its Causes, praises The Remnants of War, by John Mueller:

“Not only is Mueller unfailingly insightful as a political analyst, but he is a stylish writer with a sardonic wit. In several books he has argued that war between states, particularly war between developed states, is almost obsolete. Though civil wars and clashes between militias persist, they shade into organised crime, and do far less human damage than two organised states mustering their might to destroy each other. Mueller first made this argument in the late 1980s, before the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. He deserves credit for noticing the trend before it had come to fruition. He has been vindicated by statistics on wars in the decades since, which have shown that, in contrast to millennia of recorded history, today there are few wars between states and no wars between developed states.”

Read the whole interview here: Steven Pinker on the Decline of Violence

The Remnants of War praised by Steven Pinker

Aldrich in the Media

Daniel P. Aldrich, author of Site Fights, continues to be the go-to expert on nuclear power in Japan as the Fukushima nuclear disaster continues:

The Future of Nuclear Energy in Japan: An Interview with Daniel P. Aldrich (National Bureau of Asian Research)
WBEZ91.5 radio interview
Nuclear Power’s Future in Japan and Abroad: The Fukushima Accident in Social and Political Perspective (Paris Tech Review)
The Key to Disaster Survival? Friends and Neighbors (NPR)
Future Fission: Why Japan Won’t Abandon Nuclear Power (GlobalAsia)

Visit Aldrich’s website

Aldrich in the Media

Daniel P. Aldrich in the New York Times

Daniel P. Aldrich, author of Site Fights: Divisive Facilities and Civil Society in Japan and the West is quoted in a front-page May 30 New York Times story about Japan’s nuclear industry. Here’s an excerpt:

“Political experts say the subsidies encourage not only acceptance of a plant but also, over time, its expansion. That is because subsidies are designed to peak soon after a plant or reactor becomes operational, and then decline.

‘In many cases, what you’ll see is that a town that was depopulating and had very little tax base gets a tremendous insurge of money,’ said Daniel P. Aldrich, a political scientist at Purdue University who has studied the laws.

As the subsidies continue to decline over the lifetime of a reactor, communities come under pressure to accept the construction of new ones, Mr. Aldrich said. ‘The local community gets used to the spending they got for the first reactor — and the second, third, fourth, and fifth reactors help them keep up,’ he added.”

Read the whole article here: In Japan, a Culture That Promotes Nuclear Dependency

Daniel P. Aldrich in the New York Times

Balancing Two Worlds

Wesley Yang’s article “Paper Tigers” in the May 8 New York magazine has initiated a lot of discussion around the Internet about the challenges faced by Asian Americans on campus and in the workplace. Looking for more perspectives on these issues? For personal narratives from a range of Asian American college students, see Balancing Two Worlds: Asian American College Students Tell Their Life Stories, edited by Andrew Garrod and Robert Kilkenny.

Balancing Two Worlds

Daniel P. Aldrich in the Media, continued . . .

Daniel P. Aldrich, author of Site Fights: Divisive Facilities and Civil Society in Japan and the West, continues to make the rounds of the media. Here are some selected stories:


Public Anger Against Nuclear Power Mounts in Japan (NPR)

The Human Fallout for Japan (The Daily Beast)

Fukushima, Indian Point and Fantasy (New York Times)

Please visit Daniel P. Aldrich’s blog here.

Daniel P. Aldrich in the Media, continued . . .