The Next ‘Spring’ is Certain to Come – and Certain to be Missed

Deficits in Conflict Prevention and Research

in Global Responsibility to Protect
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The Arab Spring took policymakers and academics by surprise. The starting point, the scope, nor the impact had been seen coming. This was primarily because of academics’ irrevocable belief in the stabilising power of authoritarian regimes. In light of this failing, the article will critically discuss the production of crisis knowledge on the basis of four major early warning tools. These are World Bank’s greed/grievance model, the predictive model by the Political Instability Task Force, the risk and capacity approach applied by the Failed States Index, and the International Crisis Group. The article will add to the debate in two ways. First, the analysis will show that prevention research can be biased in ways that crucially influence policymakers’ assessment of states at risk. Second, the article will argue in favour of a complementary perspective that includes the analysis of conflicts that do not erupt into large-scale violence against all odds (so-called ‘negative cases’).

The Next ‘Spring’ is Certain to Come – and Certain to be Missed

Deficits in Conflict Prevention and Research

in Global Responsibility to Protect




Uri Dadush and Michele Dunne‘American and European Responses to the Arab Spring: What's the Big Idea?’The Washington Quarterly34/4: 131–145 (2011) p. 132; Gregory Gause III ‘Why Middle East Studies Missed the Arab Spring’ Foreign Affairs 90/4: 81–90 (2011) p. 81; Eva Bellin ‘Reconsidering the Robustness of Authoritarianism in the Middle East: Lessons from the Arab Spring’ Comparative Politics 44/2: 127–149 (2012) p. 128.


Bellin‘Reconsidering the Robustness of Authoritarianism in the Middle East’ p. 128.


Anastasyia Ryabchuk‘Right Revolution? Hopes and Perils of the Euromaidan Protests in Ukraine’Debatte: Journal of Contemporary Central and Eastern Europe22/1: 127–134 (2014.).


Susan Pedersen‘Back to the League of Nations’The American Historical Review112/4: 1091–1117 (2007) p. 1116; Alice Ackermann ‘The Idea and Practice of Conflict Prevention’ Journal of Peace Research 40/3: 339–347 (2003) p. 340.


Pedersen‘Back to the League of Nations’ p. 1116; Ackermann ‘The Idea and Practice of Conflict Prevention’ p. 340.


Milton Bearden‘Afghanistan, Graveyard of Empires’Foreign Affairs80/6: 17–30 (2001); Stathis N. Kalyvas and Laia Balcells ‘International System and Technologies of Rebellion: How the End of the Cold War Shaped Internal Conflict’ American Political Science Review 104/3: 415–429 (2010) p. 418.


Boutros Boutrous Ghali‘An Agenda for Peace. Preventive Diplomacy, Peacemaking and Peace-keeping’International Relations11/3: 201–218 (1992) p. 201.


Michael S. Lund‘Conflict Prevention’ p. 290.


Rubin and Jones‘Prevention of Violent Conflict’ p. 401.


Ibid pp. 400–402.


Monty G. MarshallFragility Instability and the Failure of States. Assessing Sources of Systemic Risk (New York: Center for Preventive2008); Jack A. Goldstone Robert H. Bates David L. Epstein Ted Robert Gurr Michael B. Lustik Monty G. Marshall Jay Ulfelder and Mark Woodward ‘A Global Forecasting Model of Political Instability’ American Journal of Political Science 54/1: 190–208 (2010).


In March 2011anti-regime protest began in Syria’s southern city of Deraa. Given the continued violent state response the once peaceful uprising evolved into an increasingly sectarian armed conflict. An excellent overview is given by Raymond Hinnebusch ‘Syria: from ‘authoritarian upgrading’ to revolution?’ International Affairs 88/1: 95–113 (2012).


Wulf and DebielConflict Warning and Response Mechanisms p. 7.


Ted Robert GurrWhy Men Rebel (Princeton: Princeton University Press1970) pp. 39–45.


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Ibid. pp. 99–100.


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Paul CollierDevelopment and Conflict (Oxford: Oxford University2004) p. 4.


Collier et al.Breaking the Conflict Trap p. 108.


Ayman Hamidi‘Inscriptions of Violence in Northern Yemen: Haunting Histories, Unstable Moral Spaces’Middle Eastern Studies45/2: 165–187 (2009) pp. 166–167.


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Goldstone et al.‘A Global Forecasting Model of Political Instability’ p. 197.


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Gregory Gause III‘Why Middle East Studies Missed the Arab Spring’ p. 81.


Wulf and DebielConflict Warning and Response Mechanisms p. 9.


Basedau and Lay‘Resource Curse or Rentier Peace?’ p. 769.


Florence Gaub‘A Libyan Recipe for Disaster’Survival: Global Politics and Strategy56/1: 101–120 (2014) pp. 101–102.


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Norimitsu Onishi‘Lebanon Worries That Housing Will Make Syrian Refugees Stay’New York Times11 December 2013.


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Wulf and DebielConflict Warning and Response Mechanisms p. 11.


Wulf and DebielConflict Warning and Response Mechanisms p. 11.


Schmeidl‘Early Warning at the Grass-Roots Level’ pp. 7–8.


Ibid. p. ii.


Ibid. pp. 19–22.


Mohammad Al-Momani‘The Arab “Youth Quake”: Implications on Democratization and Stability’Middle East Law and Governance3/1-2: 159–170 (2011) p. 160.


Volker MatthiesKrisenprävention. Vorbeugen ist besser als Heilen (Opladen: Leske + Budrich2000) pp. 29–30.


Ibid. p. 32.


Volker Matthies‘Eine Welt voller neuer Kriege? Der vernachlässigte Blick auf den Frieden’Der Bürger im Staat54/4: 185–190 (2004) p. 188.


David Roberts‘Post-Conflict Peacebuilding, Liberal Irrelevance and the Locus of Legitimacy’International Peacekeeping18/4: 410–424 (2011) pp. 410–411.


Wulf and DebielConflict Warning and Response Mechanisms p. 25.


Roberts‘Post-Conflict Peacebuilding’ p. 410.


MatthiesKrisenprävention. Vorbeugen ist besser als Heilen p. 57.


Ibid. p. 59.


Mariya Y. Omelicheva‘Natural Disasters: Triggers of Political Instability?’International Interactions: Empirical and Theoretical Research in International Relations37/4: 441–465 (2011); George Joffé ‘The End of Autocracy? The Seeds of Libya’s Civil War’ The rusi Journal 156/3: 12–19 (2011).


Halvard Buhaug and Scott Gates‘The Geography of Civil War’Journal of Peace Research39/4: 417–433 (2002); Halvard Buhaug Scott Gates and Päivi Lujala ‘Geography Rebel Capability and the Duration of Civil Conflict’ Journal of Conflict Resolution 53/4: 544–569 (2009). Halvard Buhaug and Päivi Lujala ‘Accounting for scale: Measuring geography in quantitative studies of civil war’ Political Geography 24/4: 399–418 (2005).


Greg Martin‘Conceptualizing Cultural Politics in Subcultural and Social Movement Studies’Social Movement Studies: Journal of Social Cultural and Political Protest1/1: 73–88 (2002).


Matthies‘Eine Welt voller neuer Kriege? Der vernachlässigte Blick auf den Frieden’ p. 188.


Nsongurua J. Udombana‘When Neutrality is a Sin: The Darfur Crisis and the Crisis of Humanitarian Intervention in Sudan’Human Rights Quarterly 27/4: 1149–1199 (2005); Christopher S. Chivvis ‘Libya and the Future of Liberal Intervention’ Survival: Global Politics and Strategy 54/6: 69–92 (2012).


MatthiesKrisenprävention. Vorbeugen ist besser als Heilen p. 23; Michael S. Lund ‘Underrating Preventive Diplomacy’ Foreign Affairs July/August 1995.


Philippe Droz-Vincent‘“State of Barbary” (Take Two): From the Arab Spring to the Return of Violence in Syria’The Middle East Journal68/1: 33–58 (2014) p. 33.


Gelijn Molier‘Humanitarian Intervention and The Responsibility to Protect after 9/11’Netherlands International Law Review53/1: 37–62 (2006).


Andreas Heinemann-Grüder‘Konfliktprävention – Alternative zu Militäreinsätzen?’ pp. 128–129; Lawrence Woocher Preventing Violent Conflict. Assessing Progress Meeting Challenges (Washington d.c.: United States Institute of Peace 2009) pp. 6–7.


Ibid. pp. 9–10.


Ibid. p. 13.


Ibid. p. 10.


Ibid. pp. 8–9; Heinemann-Grüder ‘Konfliktprävention – Alternative zu Militäreinsätzen?’ p. 132.


Andreas Mehler‘Sozialwissenschaft und Globalisierung. Der Westen hat ausgedient’Tagesspiegel8 May 2014.



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