Confrontation analysis provides a framework for understanding complex interactions. Its formality brings structure to the unstructured.
Over the past week I’ve been using it to think about the Syrian crisis—i.e. the US’ intention to bomb Syria in response to Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons. One thing stands out from this casual analysis—where’s the confrontation?
The US isn’t threatening to bomb. It’s not attempting to exert pressure on Assad so that he complies with some US objective. Instead, it’s effectively stating that it’ll bomb Syria regardless of what Assad does. This doesn’t make much sense. If the US isn’t making a threat, what is it doing by striking Syria? There’s no suggestion that they intend to destroy chemical warfare facilities, so bombing can only be a means to an end. But what end?
Is there an implied confrontation that says that if Assad uses chemical weapons in the future he’ll be bombed and the current proposed action is to make that threat credible? If so, I’m not sure that’s an effective strategy. Assad isn’t threatening to use chemical weapons. So, the US has a trust dilemma with Assad. Bombing your way out of a trust dilemma would require the bombing to be so devastating that it would pretty much put paid to the regime anyway. There are more palatable options available to the US.
This is why the proposal put forward by Russia today makes sense. All chemical weapons facilities will be put under international control or the US will launch its strikes. Simple. There’s the confrontation.
For those who are interested in the subject, Decision Workshops have a more in-depth confrontation analysis of the Syrian crisis on their site.