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’).
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.
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.
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.
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In March2011anti-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).
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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.