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The Place of Factor X in Friedman and Albright’s Conflict
Three scholars namely Thomas L. Friedman, Madeleine Albright and Francis Fukuyama have offered related thoughts which policy-makers could learn to use in conflict resolution. To all of them, respecting human dignity is apparently the key to conflict resolution. Also, they all try to explain moral choices as the type of choice that must surface in the society to create a harmonious society. However, they have presented different sources for which people reflect on in making moral judgments like identity, rationality and freedom. The articles they have written which are;
The Dell Theory of Conflict Resolution, Faith and Diplomacy and The Posthuman Future, respectively have tackled distinct issues but they derive their arguments from human nature. The first article for example discusses about the impacts of economic globalization on state and group collaboration; the second deals with how expertise and consideration of religion could facilitate in the understanding of cultural and religious differences to arrive at peace and settlements thus preventing wars; the third concerns itself with dissecting human nature to prove that technological and scientific development should be regulated to preserve the innate characteristics of humans and maintain their aspirations for unity. I would like to emphasize however that using the third article, Posthuman Future by Francis Fukuyama, the two articles are similar in that they refer to some aspects of human nature that Fukuyama referred to in his study as part of Factor X.
But at the same time, I would like to present a personal analysis that Friedman and Albright in their discussions of economic-political behaviour and religious beliefs, are able to introduce although implicitly another aspect of human nature that Fukuyama might have not fully underscored- the human interactions that produce, mould, shape and influence beliefs, behavior, ideologies that yields to mobilization, organization, even conflict and its resolution. Let me begin by sharing what Fukuyama has to say about human dignity.
How is moral choice determined? Francis Fukuyama in his new book the “Posthuman Future” tries to give a fresh perspective on the nature of humans and human values that eventually leads to a discussion of a kind of moral choice that is rooted in human dignity. Fukuyama says that human values are rooted in human nature which in turn is rooted in our genes.
Fukuyama defines human nature as “the sum of the behavior and characteristics that are typical of the human species, arising from genetic rather than environmental factors.” Humans as complex wholes with a range of capacities like rationality, moral choice, sociability, sentience, consciousness, language, and so on that exceed those located among non-human animals is what gives humans moral worth. So while non-humans may possess nature as well, only humans possess dignity. Dignity is what gives humans the following:
“superior… moral status that raises us all above the rest of animal creation and yet makes us equals of one another qua human beings.”
Fukuyama believes that dignity resides in what he refers below as Factor X:
“a mysterious ‘Factor X’ which is the ‘essential human quality’ that remains after ‘all of a person’s contingent and accidental characteristics’ have been stripped away.”
Fukuyama claims that:
“Factor X cannot be reduced to the possession of moral choice, or reason, or language, or sociability, or sentience, or emotions, or consciousness, or any other quality that has been put forth as a grounds for human dignity. It is all of these qualities coming together in a human whole that make up Factor X”
It is Factor X that Fukuyama wants to conserve from the command of biotechnologists.
In this given equation, biotechnology which consists of the alteration of our biological nature would also alter human nature, transforming human values and undermine capitalism. He further notes that:
“What is ultimately at stake with biotechnology is the very grounding of the human moral sense. We therefore need international regulation to obstruct any technological advance that might ‘disrupt either the unity or the continuity of human nature, and thereby the human rights that are based upon it.” (Fukuyama, 2002)
Francis Fukuyama seemingly concerned with the natural order of things fears that with artificial actions like those presented in medicines, cloning and genetic engineering, what could have been naturally designed as the end in our society would change as we intervened in the natural course of events. This assumption leads him to some policy prescriptions as regards the limitations of these developments.
One can deduce from his assumptions that our morality and our moral choices will also be affected with these perceived changes. The resolution for Fukuyama in all of humans’ worries that provoke biotechnology is seen in his statement, “There are good prudential reasons to defer to the natural order of things and not to think that human beings can easily improve upon it through casual intervention”
Having read the Dell Theory of Conflict Resolution, one can judge at the outset that the intention was to rationalize the behavior of people and organizations which due to globalization and in the consideration of their best interests have resorted to collaboration, thus making their human nature progress into economically defined configurations and abstain from war and other skirmishes. Richard Cobden said:
“Free trade is God’s diplomacy. There is no other certain way of uniting people in the bonds of peace” (cited in the Dell Theory of Conflict Resolution).
If I were to put it simply, I’d say Friedman as he appears a liberal to me wishes to promote for the sake of resolving conflict among groups and states, human’s embedded rationality as the aspect that makes us unique and thinking life-forms. He is saying that economically speaking, we would rather choose the best possible choice- that one that will entail the least costs and risks and the greater benefits. The least harm would be to preserve the freedom of choice and inherent rights of humans -characteristic of a capitalist system and even prospered in free trade.
Now, this has become not only a rational choice for him, but also a moral choice; and dignity derives itself from the consideration of other people’s rights to personal property, opportunity to engage in the globalizing system as free and rational beings and appreciation of what others could do to help others at the same time helping their own selves (comparative advantage). In this case, conflict arises when disrespect against other humans in the form of illegal transactions, abuse of power, unfair decisions and agreements take place. Hence, as far as foreign policy is concern, time has come for policy-makers to lose interest in hard security issues like war but focus on meaningful and friendly trade treaties and the like.
On the other hand, the article Faith and Diplomacy by Madeleine Albright takes faith in religion as the basis of human’s moral choices. Looking at human’s capacity and nature to reason and feel- this must be provoked to make people make better assessment of their actions and decisions. It is the domination of a common identity as humans created in the likeness of God that could fashion an intensive dislike to killing other humans and hurting them.
The ultimate reason to abhor war and fighting must come from the nature of humans to feel sympathy, pain, sadness from the makings of their religious differences. Hence, international diplomatic relations faced with religious-based insurgencies must take this tactic to eliminate the perspective of dehumanization in wars as an opportunity to maintain order. Human dignity in this case is taken away when one treats another human non-human. He says in the article:
“When participants in a conflict claim to be people of faith, a negotiator who has the credentials and the credibility to do so might wish to call their bluff”
Humans have the nature to realize mistakes after some moments of reflection based on reason and sentiments.
However as Fukuyama states, Factor X is the totality of human natures, the sum of all parts. Although a lot of other scholars still contest and rebut Fukuyama’s exaggeration of the impacts of biotechnology on the human qualities, I may not delve into those criticisms although one thing is clear to me: that all of these scholars have faith in what humans can do both negative and positive. Conflict is caused by human qualities and characteristics as rational, free beings capable of innovation and complex organizing. What must be given emphasis however more than human nature is human interaction.
Their social nature is what brings them to form distinct religious groups and organizations, influence each other to develop new traditions, norms and structures, cooperate and not to cooperate depending on mainstream beliefs and ideologies. I would say Friedman and Albright’s thoughts on moral choice, human dignity and conflict resolution are not isolated from the human aspects that Fukuyama is talking about, although in a separate discussion, they have perhaps unintentionally promoted another way of looking at conflict which transcends the explanations made by Fukuyama.