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And When the Bombing Stops? Territorial conflict as a challenge to mathematicians


And When the Bombing Stops?
Challenging the real specialists in complexity
Understanding territorial claims
Legal theorists
Lawyers and accountants -- handling territory in practice
International relations scholars
Conflict mediators
Media specialists
Metaphor specialists and spin-doctors
'Psy-ops' specialists
Architects and planners
Systems analysts
Software specialists in visualization of complexity
Theologians and philosophers
A. Practical leads for those concerned about next steps
B. Territorial conflicts as a mirror of conceptual disarray

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An earlier abridged version of this paper was printed in Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 61 (1999), pp. 297-301 under the title And After the Bombing Has Stopped?

Absence of new thinking on territorial conflicts

This communication is stimulated by reflections on responsibility for Kosovo, Tibet, Kurdistan, Kashmir, Jerusalem, Sudan, East Timor, Taiwan, Gibraltar, Malvinas, Quebec, Northern Ireland, Cyprus, Sri Lanka, Western Sahara, Scotland, and many indigenous / ethnic land claims (notably Basque, American Indians and Australian Aborigines). What happens when the bombing stops in Kosovo? Or when access to disputed land is interdicted by vengeful use of anthrax?

As with Kosovo, it is always easy to identify and demonize immediate villains (such as Milosevic or NATO) and to argue for immediate remedies in response to the need of victims made widely visible by interested parties. The case for yet more peaceful negotiation is also easily made, despite many years of essentially futile exercises in developing the art of non-decision-making (Judge, 1997). In this connection, it is useful to recall Albert Einstein's definition of insanity as 'doing the same thing over and over and over and over again, but expecting a different result'.

However, as the years of negotiation in a number of these cases have illustrated, there is very little new thinking that can be put on the table as a basis for viable longer-term solutions. Why is this? 'Urging peace', 'Doing nothing' and 'Denouncing violence' cannot be considered appropriate substitutes for creative thinking on these challenges.

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