Nation Reconciliation and Reconstruction

Resources for the Concerned Activist


Dynamics of a Nation Among Nations

Dynamic inputs to a nation include both internal and external forces.

A nation may be constituted (constructed or organized) in a rigid way or in a flexible way.

Rigidity of power relations creates the likelihood of fractures and of damaging internal structures (for example, Iraq under Saddam Hussein).

Fluidity of power relations permits maintenance of a dynamic balance among all of the factions, interest groups, ethnicities, etc.

Flexibly organized nations may be better able to resist efforts of other nations to fracture them as part of a process of conquest.

In warfare, one strategic goal can be to physically drive a wedge between two regions of a target country.

It is also possible to drive a wedge between religious groups, ethnicities, etc. that have not separated off into several regions.

Fluidly organized nations recognize the various factions, accord to each its rightful importance, and preserve according to constitutional provisions the rights of minorities against oppression by majorities.

There is a form of group intelligence at work in the interactions of factions in a well-constituted nation. The number of individuals and the fervor of individuals in each of two or more factions can increase or decrease depending on how the interests of individuals in the nation are currently met or assessed. For instance, a harsh penal code may be enacted at one time because of the weight of public opinion reacting to perceived increases in crimes, in the destructiveness of crimes, etc., and the penal code may later be made less harsh as bad results of harsh punishments become impossible to deny.

The effectiveness of this group intelligence may be decreased due to shortcomings in public education, success in programs of indoctrination, etc.

Free nations are interactively complex. The interactions among components of the system cannot be predicted in the way that, e.g., the speed of rotation of an electrical motor is related to the position of its speed dial. The components of an interactively complex system are not tightly linked. In a loosely linked Rube Goldberg machine, moving a lever a certain amount at one time will produce one effect, but moving the same lever the same amount at a different time will have a very different type of effect. In a more sophisticated example, place three magnets in a triangular array under a pendulum with an iron bob, and set the pendulum into motion. It is impossible to calculate the motion of the pendulum.* It is an example of the three-body problem. Pattern recognition is the way that animals, including humans, handle such situations, and in computer science the management of complex systems can best be handled by neural net computing. The application of this insight to making leadership decisions in an effective way is explained in a lecture by General Paul van Riper which can be viewed here.  How to be in Command and Out of Control

Some ideas for consideration:

    To change the course of a nation it is necessary to change the forces exerted by some of that nation's interest groups. A leader must be able to guide an interest group to a course that is both more favorable to itself and also more favorable to the nation, or, failing that, the leader must be able to improve the strength of the interest group that opposes the group that is pulling too strongly in the wrong direction.

    Leaders provide inspiration and guidance to groups of people. If a number of people constitute a group then they no longer stand as isolated individuals. A leader may emerge from a group of people that have been thrown together by some contingent influences, and after that leader dies the group may be perpetuated with the emergence of another leader. Conditions of life may later become poor when the nation that once functioned well suffers some kind of a reverse and loses its cohesiveness. Fragmented nations often are involved in civil wars, or they may form smaller nations that fight among themselves or that are picked off one by one from the outside. If leadership is not up to challenges, a nation can falter and eventually fail.

    A talented person with high aspirations may wish for the capacity to rescue a faltering or failing nation so that its citizens can once again enjoy good lives. To be successful one must cultivate an objective attitude toward the society and understand its components and how they interact with each other. A nation is rarely if ever constituted of individuals who have no organizational features below the nation scale. In some nations family, super-family (clan) groups, or tribes may receive the primary allegiance of individuals. In other nations one or another religion may receive each citizen's primary allegiance. In modern Western societies individuals typically belong to religions, political parties, labor unions, ethnicities, the so-called races, gangs, militias, hate groups such as the KKK, etc. An interest group of this kind that will not subordinate itself to a national government or that refuses to accord legitimacy to any other interest group is anomalous, something like an arrowhead that has lodged beneath the hide of a still-functioning animal. If U.S. citizens left Guantanamo and wandered around in Cuba as uninvited guests, then not acting to imprison or deport them would require extreme tolerance on the part of the Cubans. It would be bad enough even if these wandering invaders did not consume any of the resources of Cuba. In the limit case of such insubordinate and uninvolved minorities, they would co inhabit the territory, would not consume any of its resources, would never impede the movement of citizens on the roads or sidewalks, etc. A slightly more plausible second population would be something like other primates that share different ecological niches in a human territory. Interest groups that will not subordinate themselves properly to a national government, e.g., a militia in modern USA, are major problems for national and even international order.

    Putting aside the possible existence of non-interacting populations (perhaps of hermit monks), individuals who hope to reorder a failed or failing nation must understand the motivations and capabilities of whatever sub-populations or interest groups of one kind or another may comprise that nation. If clans (super-families) are the predominant form of social organization in a nation, then ignoring them and trying to organize guilds, labor unions, associations of manufacturers, or some other kind of groups probably will not be effective. Rather than beating around the bush, it would be best to say directly that it would be futile to act on the notion that a nation previously ruled by a king and his dukes can now be ruled by giving individuals the right to vote for a president superior to members of a newly constituted parliament. The individuals will have no way to know what to look for in a leader and little hope of finding out enough about candidates to make a rational choice. On top of that, these individuals will still be giving their primary loyalty to their clan or whatever other sub-unit had their allegiance under the old system of rule.

    The aspiring leader must understand the nation as an assemblage of interest groups (some would call them "factions," but that word now has a negative connotation). The several interest groups vary in power and each exerts its power along a certain direction. Sometimes interest groups are directly opposed, and if two of them are of equal power they cancel each other out. Nevertheless all of the interest groups influence the general course of action of the nation. One way to make this idea more concrete is to consider the analogy of a steel ring, which represents the keel of the ship of state, and many ropes attached to its circumference at different points. Each interest group pulls on one of the ropes. As time passes conditions in the country may change and in that case some interest groups may gain strength and others lose strength, which will make a course correction, a change in the way that the nation acts. In more formal language, the strength of each of the interest groups can be represented as a vector,* and the sum of all vectors will indicate the course for the nation to take.

    Representing the influences exerted by interest groups has usually been confined to describing a single interest group by a single vector, but real polities are steered by many interacting vectors. For instance a vector representation of the United States would include a stronger pro-gun vector and diametrically opposed to it a gun-control vector. Addition of these vectors would leave a single shorter vector in the pro-gun direction. The representation would also have a pro-law and order (authoritarian) vector opposed by a shorter anti-authoritarian vector. These four vectors are linked but not in any obvious way because many of the people who are in favor of not having legal restrictions placed on gun possession and gun use may also be in favor of strong legal controls on other behaviors such as trespass, larceny, etc. Similarly, many of the people who are in favor of strict legal restrictions on the kinds of permitted guns and the scope of legal use of those guns may also be generally opposed to authoritarian government. The balance points in this system will necessarily be very fluid. Quantifying single vectors would require immense resources. Calculating the resolution of four vectors would be mathematically extremely challenging to say the least.

    Accurately computing the sum of two vectors is merely challenging, but accurately summing many vectors that are all cross-linked is impossible. The mathematics are well beyond the scope of this discussion. Suffice it to say that such a calculation would be analogous to what is known as the three-body problem in classical physics. Systems that cannot be described by linear equations have the confounding feature that large changes are produced in  the solution value of the equation because of small changes in one of the equation's variables. This sensitivity has been called the butterfly effect. The large and unexpected changes in results, depending on small fluctuations (perhaps even too small to measure), produces the appearance of chaos, so the general field that studies these non-linear equations is often called chaos theory.

    Anyone who deals with policy issues must deal with the unpredictable results of volatile vector balances. It is a paradox that the only thing that will change the course of a nation is a change in the forces, internal and external, that act upon it, yet the result of such a change can be known only by watching the system works itself out and form a new balance.

    A polity can be roughly compared to a building in a hurricane or an earthquake. Rigid structures can snap. One important goal of architectural design in hurricane or earthquake territory is the construction of a building that will shift components on pivot points or bend without breaking and then revert to its equilibrium position when external forces have ceased.

    It should be clear that navigation will be impaired if any interest vector is frozen out of action. At a time when surgery was generally performed under septic conditions, it would have been a tragic mistake for someone in power to have frozen out the group of physicians who were pushing for the new idea of performing operations only under sterile conditions.

    Discussion in the Federalist Papers concerning the power of factions leaves aside an important consideration. Assume that there are two factions, one orange and one violet. A senator might be elected by the votes of (mostly) orange faction members, and another senator might be elected by the votes of (mostly) violet faction members. In the US, the Senate might consist of slightly more orange senators than violet senators. In the event that these two factions are locked in irreconcilable conflict there may be no way forward. If the violet faction feels deeply about its factional interests, it may do many things to get its own way. If they cannot get their way, then they may create obstacles to the orange faction getting its way. In a completely hierarchical organization there would be a higher organ over the Senate, an office that would decide these deadlocked issues. The problem is exacerbated when the senators become mere extensions of the corporate will of a faction of the general population. Senators who have no autonomy cannot make compromises with each other. The President of the U.S. Senate can only decide tie votes, and, being the Vice-President, normally does not strongarm senate factions to form a compromise. The U.S. House of Representatives has a Speaker, one who can play the function of forcing compromises. A Speaker of the House can only work effectively if s/he gains sufficient personal power to be able to stand above his/her own party. 

Important documents:

Nation-Building: Beyond Afghanistan and Iraq edited by Francis Fukuyama.
The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution by Francis Fukuyama.
Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy by Francis Fukuyama.

Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions  by Gary Klein

Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
related video

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

Science of the Artificial by Herbert Simon

It would be helpful to find academic sources that apply vectors to the courses taken by nations. See:
"Vectors." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. 2008. 2 Sep. 2014, for information regarding the application of vectors to a narrower field.

Although his examples are primarily military, the work of Lt. General Paul von Riper is instructive in regard to the way that one change in the network of interlocking  activities of the various interest groups in a country (or on a battlefield) can tip balances of other parts of the web, resulting in changes that one wouldn't have guessed just from looking at what was done.  Check here for materials, primarily videos, by Gen. v0n Riper.

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Latest revision: 15 August 2016.