7.4.5 The Instability of an Imposed Solution

(This is a current page, from the Patterns of Power Edition 3 book contents.  An archived copy of this page is held at http://www.patternsofpower.org/edition03/745.htm)

A solution that is imposed militarily by one country upon another is inherently unstable because the loser inevitably has a feeling of having suffered an injustice:

  • Confrontations, such as that between Israeland Palestine, can continue for many years, periodically sliding into armed conflict and back again, and potentially never reaching a stable peace.[1]  Both sides have been intransigent.  Israel’s military victories in 1948, 1967 and 1973 have failed to produce peace, yet there are still those who ask us to Remember, The God of Israel is Also a God of War! – and who argue that “evil must be vanquished first”.
  • History has repeatedly shown that settlements reached by force are temporary and eventually resurface – sometimes decades or even centuries later – because agreements made under duress aren’t seen as binding. There is an easy transition to war when the balance of power changes substantially.  The Iraq-Iran war of 1980-88 is an example, where “The Iraqis, especially the Baath leadership, regarded the 1975 treaty as merely a truce, not a definitive settlement”.[2]  Saddam Hussein thought that he had chosen an opportune moment to attack when Iran was militarily weak, as he “watched the once invincible Imperial Iranian Army disintegrate”,[3] after Iran’s Islamic revolution in 1979.
  • Memories of injustice don’t die quickly. Wars cause refugees to leave their homes, and sometimes to settle in camps in other countries for several generations.  The children growing up in such refugee camps will have been told of their parents’ loss of property and hardship, so they are likely to join resistance movements as soon as they are old enough to bear arms.  Hezbollah recruits from the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, for example, and has continued to be a thorn in Israel’s side.[4]

A balance of power lacks the legitimacy of an agreement which has been meaningfully negotiated, or a judgement which has been made impartially and transparently under a jurisdiction which is respected by both sides.

Peace can only be achieved through reconciliation, which requires political negotiation – such as that which led to the formation of the EU (, for example.



[1] Rupert Smith described the paradigm of confrontation and conflict in chapter 5 of his book The Utility of Force.  At the start of the chapter he refers to:

“a continuous criss-crossing between confrontation and conflict, whilst peace is not necessarily either the starting or the endpoint; and whereas conflicts are ultimately resolved, it is not necessarily the case with confrontations…..  the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation is still not resolved after fifty-seven years ” (p.  181)

[2] The GlobalSecurity.org article entitled Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), which was cited earlier (7.3.1), mentioned the revival of the border dispute; it was available in May 2014 at http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/war/iran-iraq.htm.

[3] Ibid.

[4] On 4 December 2013, the BBC published a profile: Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement which was available in May 2014 at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-10814698.

A BBC portrait of life in the Shatila refugee camp described the refugees as keeping alive a hope of return to their original homes in Northern Israel; this was available in May 2014 at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7390166.stm.