Ending stalemate

One of the most salient trends emerging in the 1980s is the phenomenon of stalemate. A stalemate is a protracted state created by two or more equally powerful actors who enter into a mode of interaction that makes it apparently impossible to reach or to formulate an end for the good of all the parties involved. Instead of carefully planning for ''win-win'' situations, we are increasingly getting more ''lose-lose'' situations due to shortsighted and absolutist interventions that are supposed to solve our problems once and for all.

A quick look around the world we live in demonstrates the saliency of stalemate for us.

The future of Lebanon is certainly not in sight. It is somewhat ironic that President Gemayel was the head of an institute called the House of the Future before he became the President of Lebanon. The sectarian divisions leading to fighting and fueled by outside interests have created an environment where proposed solutions are bound to be self-defeating, since they originate from one or other of the conflicting sides.

When and how is the three-year-old Iran-Iraq war going to end? The use of the French Super Etendard planes equipped with Exocet missiles will not bring decisive victory to Iraq. But it will bring retaliatory actions such as an Iranian blockade of the Gulf that will drag even more parties into the conflict. The waves caused by violent confrontations as a result of this stalemate will beat upon the petroleum prices and the stock markets.

Like the Lebanese, the Irish people are deeply divided along sectarian lines. The difference is Northern Ireland is a province of Great Britain, which is the major actor in stalemate. Protestant Irishmen are prepared to defend their right to be a part of Britain as violently as Roman Catholic Irishmen are prepared to fight to break away.

The role the actors play in creating and maintaining stalemate have certain similarities particularly in Africa and in Central America. Whether we like this parallel or not, the manner in which the rebels are backed by the United States to fight the Sandinistas in Nicaragua is not very much different from the Libyan backing of rebels in Chad to fight the government in N'Djamena.

The most significant stalemate in terms of repercussions is the arms talks between the US and the USSR. Sparked by the downing of the Korean jetliner, the polarization between these two parties has reached an all-time high.

Stalemate is not restricted to international and national situations. We only have to observe the fight between the governors and legislatures of Pennsylvania and of California or between the mayor and city aldermen of Chicago. The politics of ''no compromise'' leads to positions of an absolutist nature.

It is high time not only to deliberate on peaceful means of dissolving and intervening in stalemated social systems, but also to pursue strategies that will not produce stalemate. The imposition of a solution usually requires a drastic intervention. Furthermore, the consequences of an imposed solution could be more costly than incurring costs associated with making a compromise. The means by which the Turkish stalemate was broken in 1980 - a military takeover - should not be the only alternative to stalemate. Turkish armed forces took control at a time when revolving-door government changes were occurring, three-digit inflation was rampant, and terrorist activity was taking as many as 20 lives a day. Moreover, an ineffectual National Assembly brought doubt to its own legitimacy by not being able to elect a president after 115 rounds of balloting.

There are no winners in stalemated situations. The context that is created by stalemate is a maelstrom. If you enter it, there is no point of return; you are swirled into the vortex.

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