Often, when we interview parties in a dispute, we find that they have focused on the threats posed by their adversaries. In these situations, it is important to step back and examine the threats as objectively as possible.
A recent article published in The Duck of Minerva gives a good example of using objective analysis to examine threats. Although the example given is threats that would need to be countered by an independent Scotland, the article is worth a read.
The authors suggest three themes that we might consider in an objective threat analysis:
- Frames: As we examine the arguments being used to describe the threats we face, it is important to think about alternative frames. How could this conflict (or potential conflict) be seen from a different angle? Why has the conflict been framed in the way that it has? Have we selected the right frame to guide our planning?
- Addiction to Fear: It is always advisable to understand whether or not we have succumbed to the temptation to focus on our fears. If the authors are correct, humans are quick to think about what makes them afraid. Those who are planning a negotiation should be encouraged to also think about opportunities.
- Threat Categories: The authors use three categories to examine the question of potential threats. These might be expressed as Structural, Situational, and Complications.
Structural threats arise from the structure of our environment. These “institutional” factors can include the rules under which we operate, organizational policies, or supervisory span of control. Situational threats might include our adversaries’ incentives to cause conflict. Shared incentives to resolve conflicts could also be fruitful lines for examination. Complications might include such considerations as the effects of our alliances.