Introduction: Many Paths to Knowledge

  • Michael Brecher


What path(s) to knowledge, that is, which method(s) of analysis, should be pursued in an attempt to contribute to an understanding of the Arab–Israel conflict? In this book, core questions include the following: When did the Arab–Israel protracted conflict (PC) begin? What conditions triggered its onset? What have been the phases of this PC, the time frame of its escalations? What have been the causes of its persistence during the past near-seven decades, even longer in the pre-1948 historical experience? Who have been the principal adversaries, both states and nonstate actors? What was the role of violence and acts of political hostility in sustaining this conflict? What have been the discordant objectives of the adversaries, and have their objectives changed over time? What conditions generated formal resolution of the Egypt–Israel and Israel–Jordan dimensions of this multistate international conflict? What are the necessary conditions for overall resolution of the Arab–Israel PC? A quest for credible answers to these and other questions about a complex protracted international conflict will be evident throughout this book.

In this book, I advocate a dual path to knowledge, framing a priori models and hypotheses and a framework/taxonomy to guide empirical inquiry, leading to the testing of model-derived hypotheses and their refinement or abandonment as the evidence dictates, further testing, and so on. This strategy will be utilized, flowing from a conviction about the inherent merit of methodological pluralism. One path is in-depth case studies of perceptions and decisions by senior decision-makers of a single state, using a model designed to guide research on state-level behavior in PCs and to facilitate rigorous comparative analysis of findings about state behavior in the military-security issue area. In terms of policy relevance to the future of world politics, the aim is to use the findings from this knowledge to enhance the quality and effectiveness of crisis management: that is, at the state [micro] level, to enable decision-makers to cope more effectively with crises, and, at the system level, to reduce the likelihood of escalation of crises to full-scale war, with potentially grave consequences in a world saturated with nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. In the largest sense, the objective is to apply the lessons of history to the advancement of international peace and world order.


Foreign Policy World Politics Ivory Tower Methodological Pluralism Nonstate Actor 
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© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Brecher
    • 1
  1. 1.McGill UniversityMontrealCanada

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