The end of the Cold War marked a new stage in the history of international relations, characterized by the reconstruction of many concepts that had existed since the ancient times of mankind and given them priority in political discourses due to their direct connection with international phenomena. In our current era, which can be described as the era of crises, today’s crises have affected all aspects of life and are now present at all levels and levels, whether on the individual level when the individual faces psychological and social crises in his daily life, or at the national level in confronting governments and institutions with political and economic crises, as well as at the level International, with the emergence of what is known today as international crises of transnational extensions, which are the subject of study in this article.

Concept of the international crisis: 

The word crisis dates back to ancient times, where the word crisis is derived from the Greek word krino, which means a decisive or important decision, and from the Greek word kip vew, meaning to be decided, and it came in the Chinese language between two meanings included in the word wit-ji, so the word (wit) means danger And the word “ji” means the opportunity that we can use to ward off danger.

This is in the language, but in practice, the first thing mentioned in the term crisis was in Greek medicine, where it was expressed or denoted by the fateful moments of the development of the disease, and thus the patient’s recovery or death depends on it. With the development of the ages, the term was used in circulation by many scholars and included various fields and opened the way for a multiplicity of opinions and studies about it, which put the researcher in front of the problem of finding a comprehensive definition for it.  Charles McCliland expressed this  by saying: The vast amount of studies published on its significance, which covered all its angles.

Politically, the crisis is: “A situation or problem that takes the dimensions of the political system and calls for a decision to face the challenge it represents.”

As for the economic aspect, the crisis indicates: “an interruption in the path of economic growth until the decline in production.”

And it came in the social sciences in the sense of chaos, as it refers to the chaotic situations that people, governments and states suffer from, and in a more accurate sense it means the unstable situation that occurs suddenly and breaks the routine processes in every system, but in international relations it referred to the opportunity to win Something.

Therefore, we can say that the crisis in its general meaning, regardless of the field or field to which it belongs, whether it is political, economic or social, is a critical situation that occurs suddenly and forces the decision-maker to make a decisive decision that represents him an opportunity for success or failure.

As for the term international crisis, it was only used in international politics in the nineteenth century with the contributions of  John Krieng Und Freienden,   which came to express the transition period between peace and war, meaning there is a crisis, there is no war and at the same time there is no peace, the crisis is In this sense, it refers to the stage of no war, no peace.

The definitions provided for the international crisis have varied, and perhaps the reason for this multiplicity and difference is due to two basic factors, the first of which is related to different intellectual and scientific trends, and the second is due to the wide and different use of its content in the service of specific goals and interests.

Where the  koral pill defines  the international crisis as: “a turning point in the nature of the relationship between parties, where conflicts rise to a level that threatens to change the nature of relations between states.” In the case of crises between enemies, for example, relations transform from peaceful relations to hostile relations ( War), or from cooperative relations to conflict relations, but in the case of crises between alliances, relations turn from coalition to division.

As for  Oran Yong, he  defines the international crisis as: “A group of events that reveal themselves quickly, thereby causing a defect in the balance of power existing under the international system or any of its subsystems, mainly and to a degree that exceeds the usual degrees, with an increase in the possibility of escalating the situation to a degree. Violence within it. ”What is noticeable from Jung’s definition is his reference to sub-systems or regional systems that are also affected by crises affecting the international system as a whole.

While  Charles Hurman  introduces another definition of the international crisis as: “a situation that threatens one of the main objectives of political unity, as it limits the time for thinking, planning and responding in order to change the likely outcome.” It is clear from Herman’s definition   that he focused on the element of surprise, that is, the crisis It occurs in a sudden, unexpected way by the decision-maker.

This definition is close to the definition of  Kal Holsti,  who believes that the international crisis is: “an important change in the quantity, quality, or intensity of the interaction of nations.” For Holsti , the crisis   is one of the stages of the conflict, which arises by surprising one of the parties to the other side by an action. It increases tension and threat between the two parties to the point where the decision maker must choose one of the two alternatives, either war or surrender.

Based on the previous definitions, we can see the extent of the difference and the multiplicity of the meaning of the international crisis between the various scientific trends and schools of thought, but on the other hand there is a degree of agreement between some of them, and in order to simplify the points of difference and agreement, we will divide the international crisis scholars into two groups:

The first group:  which we think defines the international crisis within the framework of the concepts of the methodology of coordination in analyzes of international relations, as it focuses on the behavioral interactions between the units of the system, that is, as Kenneth E. Boulding says,   “The international crisis is the crises of the political or international system” An international crisis according to this trend is based on a combination of two basic criteria, the first of which is a change or increase in the reality / intensity of the trend towards conflict in interactions between two or more states with the possibility of escalating military operations, and the second is the extent to which these changes cause destabilization in the relationship between states, Thus the impact on the international system as a whole.

The second group:  we find that it considers international crises on the basis that they are foreign policy crises, as they are related to the decision-making process, whether organizational, as it is a case of sudden and immediate threat to vital goals that put the decision-maker in a critical position, as it forces him to choose the appropriate decision at a specific time, or perceptual That is, its connection with the awareness of the decision maker, and here we distinguish between two types of crises, one-sided crises in which the actor sees himself surrounded by the crisis while the opponent does not see it, and two-faced crises in which all the parties to the crisis are aware of their existence.

And  Michael Britcher-Mikhil Britcher tried to  reconcile the two groups and gave a definition of the international crisis as: “a situation that is distinguished and predicted by four things which, as seen by the higher levels of the decision maker, are summarized in: internal and external conditions, the emergence of a threat to the current and future basic values, an increase in the likelihood of violent acts. Military, imposing a specific time, which is short, to deal with these threats. “

Based on the aforementioned definitions and based on analyzes of the various theoretical trends interested in studying the international crisis, we can present a general definition of the international crisis as: “A sudden turning point in the relations between states, including a direct threat to the higher values ​​and interests of the various actors, which forces the decision-maker to take Quick and effective positions in a tight period, where the possibility of the crisis turning into a conflict or war depends on how the parties concerned respond to the situation, which leads either to the stability or imbalance of the international system.

Because the term international crisis is linked to the conflict side or conflict interactions in international relations, we find that it overlaps with many terms that share a certain amount of characteristics, which makes it difficult for the researcher sometimes to choose the appropriate term, and puts the reader at other times in the stage of confusing concepts, and between These concepts:

1- Tension:  It means “a state of anxiety and mutual distrust between two or more actors within the same state or between two states,” and accordingly tension is a stage prior to the crisis that may or may not lead to it.

2- Conflict: It  means “the waiver of national revenues resulting from the difference in the motives of states, their perceptions and their goals, which lead to decisions and foreign policies of a different nature more than consensual”. Consequently, the conflict is a stage after the crisis, any stage of the development of the crisis. Unless the crisis is managed peacefully, it will turn into a conflict.

3- Conflict:  The concept of conflict often overlaps with the concept of crisis, as Cal Deutsch  defines  conflict as: “the presence of incident activities or ongoing actions that contradict each other, and it is an activity that does not agree with one another and prevents and hinders the effectiveness of the second activity.” Parties, dimensions, and trends in contrast to the crisis, which often lacks information about it, and therefore the crisis is the most sensitive stage of the conflict, and the conflict is the last stage of the development of the crisis in which the equation is often zero leading to war.

Accordingly, conflict interaction in international relations ranges from tension, which, if it continues and increases in intensity, leads to a crisis. If this crisis is not managed properly by decision-makers, it will escalate into a conflict, that is, the consensual solution becomes more difficult for the direct or indirect parties. Which in most cases leads us to a conflict, as the last stage of the development of the crisis.

Features of the international crisis: 

International crises have characteristics that distinguish them from others and are deduced from the definitions presented to them. Therefore, we find that they differ from one direction to another. In general, the most important characteristics of the international crisis can be summarized as follows:

1- The sudden characteristic:   The international crisis represents a sudden turning point in relations between states or within a single state, as it occurs as a sudden, unplanned in advance.

2- The threat characteristic:  as it threatens the supreme interests and national security of the state.

3- Time constraints:  the time available to confront them is limited and short in light of scarcity or lack of information.

4- The risk characteristic:  as it imposes on the decision maker the necessity to take decisive and crucial decisions to face the events that may lead to a shift in the future of relations between the parties.

But despite the fact that surprise is one of the characteristics of the crisis, this does not negate the existence of some indicators that stimulate it and the indications that predict its imminent occurrence, such as conflict of goals and interests between countries, disputes over borders, interference in the internal affairs of states, sectarian conflicts, and may arise as a result of psychological factors related to Misunderstanding, misconception, miscalculation and evaluation by the decision maker.

International crises are also characterized by dynamism and gradual growth, as they go through stages in their development:

1- The first stage (the birth of the crisis):  At this stage, the decision-maker begins to sense the danger of what is looming on the horizon, and he must deal with it and prevent it before it aggravates and moves to the next stage.

2- The second phase (the growth of the crisis and its widening):  Here the crisis begins to grow and expand, drawing its strength from internal and external stimuli as a result of the inability of the decision maker to control it in the first phase.

3- The third stage (crisis maturity):  This is the most dangerous stage in the life of the crisis, in which the crisis reaches its maximum strength and depth, which makes it difficult to control it, and in many cases crises stop at this stage for internal, regional or international reasons.

4- The fourth stage (the receding of the crisis):  This stage comes as a result of the decision-maker’s ability to contain it according to well-thought-out plans, that is, the beginning of the breakthrough.

5- The fifth stage (resolving the crisis):  In this stage, the crisis is finally over.

The end of international crises often occurs in one of the two ways, either by peaceful means, in which the two sides reach non-zero solutions through negotiation and bargaining, or by violent means that lead to the resort to war and the use of military force in the event of the intransigence of the two parties and their choice of zero solutions.

Sources and references:

Qahtan Hussain Taher, “What is the International Crisis… A Study in a Theoretical Framework”, Journal  of  Political Sciences ,  p. 42, University of Baghdad.

Abbas Rushdi Al-Ameri,  Crisis Management  in   Changing World ,  Cairo: Al-Ahram Foundation, 1993.

Alywa Al-Sayed,  Crisis  and Disaster Management: The Risks of  Globalization  and  International Terrorism ,  ed. 2, Cairo: Dar Al-Amin for Publishing and Distribution, 2002.

Thamer Kamel Muhammad Al-Khazraji, International  Political Relations and Crisis Management Strategy , Jordan: Majdalawi House for Publishing and Distribution, 2005.     

 Khalil Arnous Suleiman, “The International Crisis and the International System: A Study of the Relationship of Interactivity between International Strategic Crisis Management and the Structure of the International System”, Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies,  2011.

Hussein Qadri, International Conflicts: A Study and Analysis,  Batna: Khair Jalis Publications, 2007.

Bouzarb Riad, The Conflict in Algerian-Moroccan Relations 1963-1988 ,  Unpublished Master’s Degree in Political Science, University of Constantine: Faculty of Law and Political Science, 2007-2008.

Mustafa Bakhoush, What is the International Crisis , a  lecture presented in the International Crisis Management Scale (unpublished), Biskra University, 2015-2016.

Ali bin Hilhul Al-Ruwaili, Crises: Their Definition, Dimensions, and Causes,  a seminar for employees of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Crisis Management”, Naif Arab University for Security Sciences, Faculty of Training, 2011.

Michael Brecher, ” Conflict and crisis: crisis concepts overview findings on earthquaker”internatinal politcalearthqukes, university of michigan, 2008

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