Conflict Resolution

Conflict resolution is surely an art as much as a science. Some people are better than others.

One axiom of conflict resolution is that unless the parties do want to resolve the problem, outside force is required. In a court case, the parties settle on their own terms most of the time. In rare exceptions, they go to trial and the judge solves the case. Except in the narrow situation where only a single cash payment is at issue, court rulings–as with outside force in general–is usually a blunt instrument by comparison.

Not all situations have outside forces that matter. In the US Senate, the outside check is, realistically, reelection, but popular will is only one factor; contributions and institutional support also matter. It requires 60 senators who are willing to solve a problem for it to be resolved. There may be 61 that even care to see the health care problem solved, and it remains to be seen if there are 60 whose solutions are compatible. There are 40 that are content not to solve the problem, who like the problem, who prefer the problem, or who don’t even see it as a problem, or, if they do, know they are better of in the regime of the problem.

Republicans have convinced themselves that successful government programs are an existential threat. There is some cognitive dissonance there, since the GOP does support military spending. In fact, I think history shows that the GOP has more of a raison d’etre the more government programs there are. They are the check on its excess. The trouble starts when the GOP stops being about fiscal conservatism and more about selfishness. Both elements have been present for a long time, one started winning since Reagan and completely took over in the new opposition of Obama.

Indeed, the real reason the GOP opposes any health care reform is political. If they didn’t like the bill, they were given every opportunity to create something more to their liking in exchange for votes. They oppose the bill because if it passes it will be a huge accomplishment for President Obama. This is also why they are cynically opposed to trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York. The US has tried other terrorists in the federal courts. To this, they respond that it will be a “show trial.” A show trial? First of all, at least it’s a trial. Second, what do they call the military tribunals? They oppose this trial because if Obama executes the 9/11 mastermind, their entire theory of 9/11 and how to respond to it will be undermined and Obama will claim yet another success. If health care reform passes and KSM is given the death penalty, Obama will be well on his way to reelection. Only the economy stands in his way.

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2 thoughts on “Conflict Resolution”

  1. Why “cognitive dissonance” that the GOP loves military spending but hates “successful” gov’t programs? You mean “hates social spending/welfare/programs that benefit the average citizen”?

    Orwell explained this quite clearly in 1984 (Part 2, Ch.9): “The primary aim of modern warfare (in accordance with the principles of doublethink, this aim is simultaneously recognized and not recognized by the directing brains of the Inner Party) is to use up the products of the machine without raising the general standard of living … The essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labour. War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent.” Oligarchical Collectivism, with a side order of fat kickbacks from your lobbyist buddies. From their point of view, military boondoggles are highly successful.

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  2. Also, the GOP aren’t cynically opposed to trying KSM in federal court because it represents a public relations success for Obama … they are (rightfully) afraid that KSM’s defense will bring to light evidence of torture committed by U.S. agencies/at the behest of U.S. gov’t officials, in a manner that cannot be ignored (e.g. cross-examination), thereby opening the door for war crimes indictements.

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