July 29, 2014

Political science after Gaza

By Marc Lynch

Israel’s latest war with Gaza has already killed more than a thousand people, including hundreds of children, while showing few signs of significantly changing anything fundamental. The dynamics of its asymmetric conflict, half-hearted cease-fire talks, civilian suffering, American inefficacy, Arab impotence and apoplectic public arguments feels painfully familiar. Indeed, besides the immediacy of the stomach-churning images of death and devastation circulated over social media, much of the analysis of the war could probably be recycled from 2008 or 2012 without changing much beyond the dateline.

That very stasis might actually be masking interesting questions, however. How has this conflict remained so impervious to the dizzying turbulence happening everywhere else in the region? Why are we still having the same arguments in the same terms when so much has palpably changed? Which changes in regional and international politics are likely to seriously destabilize the situation and which will be comfortably absorbed into the status quo? Will we soon look back at the long years of relative stagnation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as something akin to the false stability of Arab authoritarian regimes circa 2010?

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been searching through the top political science journals looking for research that might be relevant for pieces about the current conflict for the Monkey Cage. I found surprisingly little, especially considering how much is written about the conflict in other disciplines and in the broader public realm. Most observers would probably chalk that up to the pathologies of public discourse about the conflict recently noted by the political theorist Jon Stewart. There is little space forexplicitly ethical argument in the discipline, and many empirically-oriented political scientists may find the passions and overwrought rhetoric surrounding the topic off-putting. And it’s not like there’s a shortage of punditry on the topic.]

Read the full op-ed at The Washington Post

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