Thursday, January 10, 2008

Talking To The Enemy (RAND)

Dalia Dassa Kaye at RAND has recently (late 2007) written a very insightful report (click here for full text) on the value of so-called "track two diplomacy" -- unofficial contacts between ordinary people on different sides of an issue -- in the Middle East and South Asia. I am familiar with some of Dalia's previous work and she has always been worth the read. While the full report has much to ponder, here are some highlights from the Summary (Boldface is mine):

  • "While official diplomatic communications are the obvious way for adversaries to talk, unofficial policy discourse, or track two diplomacy, is an increasingly important part of the changing international security landscape."
  • "The experiences of the Middle East and South Asia suggest that track two regional security dialogues rarely lead to dramatic policy shifts or the resolution of long-standing conflicts. But they have played a significant role in shaping the views, attitudes, and knowledge of elites, both civilian and military, and in some instances have begun to affect security policy. However, any notable influence on policy from such efforts is likely to be long-term, due to the nature of the activity and the constraints of carrying out such discussions in regions vastly different from the West."
  • "Track two dialogues on regional security are less about producing diplomatic breakthroughs than socializing an influential group of elites to think in cooperative ways."
  • "Track two dialogues typically involve moderate and pragmatic voices that have the potential to wield positive influence in volatile environments, and the stakes are high."
  • "This study identifies three conceptual stages that define the evolution of track two dialogues, although in practice these stages are not necessarily sequential: socialization, filtering, and policy adjustment."
    • "During socialization, outside experts, often from Western governments or nongovernmental institutions, organize forums to share security concepts and lessons based on experiences from their own regions."
    • "Filtering involves widening the constituency favoring regional cooperation beyond a select number of policy elites involved in track two, through the media, parliament, NGOs, education systems, and citizen interest groups. In practice, this stage has often been the weak link in track two dialogues, as there has been inconsistent translation of the ideas developed in regional security dialogues to groups outside the socialized circle of elites."
    • "The final stage is the transmission of the ideas fostered in dialogues to tangible shifts in security policy, such as altered military and security doctrines or new regional arms control regimes or political agreements. Track two has not led to such extensive shifts in security policy, although there are examples of track two work influencing official thinking and a variety of security initiatives and activities, particularly in South Asia."
  • "Track two dialogues in the Middle East have affected growing numbers of regional elites."
    • "What have these dialogues achieved over the years? Their socialization function has succeeded in shaping a core and not-insignificant number of security elites across the region to begin thinking and speaking with a common vocabulary."
    • "That said, the filtering of track two concepts has by and large failed to penetrate significant groups outside the dialogue process."
  • "As in the Middle East, South Asia experienced a growth in track two dialogues in the 1990s, and many of these efforts continue today."
    • "The direct impact of South Asian dialogues on official policy has been limited, although not entirely absent."
    • "A number of confidence-building measures (CBMs) initially discussed in track two forums are now being officially implemented between India and Pakistan, such as the ballistic missile flight test notification agreement, military exercise notifications and constraint measures along international borders, and Kashmir-related CBMs."
    • "South Asian dialogues have also succeeded in changing mindsets among participants toward more cooperative postures and have had some success in building a constituency supportive of South Asian cooperation, including in challenging areas such as nuclear confidence building and new approaches to Kashmir."
    • "Filtering is also apparent from the emergence of a variety of regional policy centers focused on issues that are being discussed in track two venues."
  • "Still, track two groups in both regions have made considerable progress in socialization. Thousands of military and civilian elites have discussed and engaged in cooperative security exercises. Expertise and knowledge of basic arms control concepts were limited in both regions before the 1990s. Now, because of track two dialogues, there are large communities of well-connected individuals familiar with such concepts. Knowledge of complex arms control and regional security concepts and operational confidence-building activity is now solidly rooted in both regions."

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