Policy must be shaped by science

In this article, I discuss the “Clingendael Strategic Monitor 2017”, with the title “Multi-Order”. This is Part I, of a series of articles that evaluate and discuss the Clingendael Monitor.


Front cover of the Clingendael Monitor 2017

Clingendael is the ‘Netherlands Institute of International Relations’, located in The Hague, the seat of the Government of The Netherlands.

Clingendael offers a number of – as they call it – ‘products and services’, and also educates Dutch diplomats: “The Clingendael Institute conducts research, organises courses and acts in an advisory capacity. The outcome of our research can be found in reports, policy briefs, and e-publications, and is also reflected in seminars, debates and expert meetings. Through its training programmes Clingendael spreads insights in topics as global affairs, Europe, security and conflict management, and processes in negotiation.”

The Clingendael Strategic Monitor 2017 is one of its products.

The Clingendael Institute was quick to respond to my research by publishing a review of the book ‘2020: Warning’ in one of its publications. As I explain on my website, this is a rather ‘hasty’ review, with some obvious mistakes. The ‘Old School’ approach of which the Clingendael Institute is a representative, doesn’t seem to match with a more scientific approach of war.

The author of the review promised to come with a more thorough and accurate response. I am now informed that Clingendael does refrain from such a response. I regret this; an institute who takes research seriously – I think – should act accordingly. Policy should be shaped by science.

It seems that at least two factors play a role in Clingendael’s reaction (lack of reaction):

(1) Old School’ versus new insights. The Clingendael Institute is a representative of the traditional International Relations theory school of thought, a set of ideas based on a narrative approach of international relations. They are ‘realists’, and think primarily in terms of interests and power of states. ‘Realism’ include ‘thinkers’ like Morgenthau, Gilpin and Kissinger. International relations theory ‘Old school’ is a product and an integral component of our anarchistic system. See also my research.

International Relations theory, makes many claims, but did never contribute to solutions we confront, in fact contributed to them. International Relations theory does not qualify as a scientific theory. My research, provides a coherent theory, which explains the war dynamics and developments of the System; it also reveals the fallacies of International Relations theory, and the (by definition) negative effects of the so-called ‘realist’ approach.

(2) Clingendael serves the state and its institutions. Clingendael serves the Dutch government (also an important sponsor), and it should not come as a surprise that its advise is based on the so-called ‘realist’ approach, as discussed above. The opening quote of the Clingendael Monitor – a statement of the EU High Representative Federica Mogherini – is supposed to show the Monitor’s policy relevance: ‘This is no time for uncertainty: our Union needs a Strategy. We need a shared vision, and common action.’ However, the Clingendael Institute should have noticed that this quote does not make much sense: Uncertainty is intrinsic to the System’s chaotic dynamics, and cannot be contained – but only be addressed – by a strategy, that is based on more than dogmas. This fallacy explains why all ‘strategies’ have failed; they are based on the wrong assumptions.

Research by the Clingendael Institute is conducted from an International Relations theory – perspective, a perspective that did not serve us well. Because my research challenges the dogmas that underpin Clingendael’s advise – and business model – it responded quickly when it was challenged. But it was not a scientific response.

In a number of articles, I will discuss the ‘Clingendael Strategic Monitor 2017’. The Clingendael Institute is not the only one in his kind. In this article, I give a general reaction to the Monitor, in the next articles, I discuss a number of paragraphs from the Monitor in more detail.

In the review of my book, the author of the review – Kars de Bruijne, also one of the two authors of the Clingendael Monitor – explains that the research methods I used, do not meet the required ‘standards’ he considers essential.

As I explained in my reaction, the methods De Bruijne refers to, do not apply, as De Bruijne states: I have made used of methods related to theoretical physics, and complexity and network science, consistent with the nature of the System. The fact that no fundamental progress is made in International Relations – theory, can also be attributed to a unwillingness to introduce more innovative research methods.

However, what is remarkable, the Clingendael Monitor – Clingendael’s research – does not meet its own standards; there seem to be two standards.

Another important observation regarding methods is that the Clingendael Monitor is based on interviews with ‘experts’, their opinions are supposed to explain the workings of the System, and make prediction possible. This ‘wisdom-of-the crowds’ method – as this method is referred to – has some serious limitations, apart from the fact, that opinions – not even of 2500’experts – cannot compensate for the scientific method.

The Clingendael Monitor already shows serious signs of obsolescence, less than six months after its publication.

It is also inaccurate to present the findings of Clingendael’s research as ‘evidence-based’, it is opinion-based; opinions are not evidence.

As I explain in my research – based on data and the scientific method – the System is now ‘producing’ a fifth war cycle. This is the first war cycle at a global scale of the System; the previous four war cycles (1495-1945) concerned Europe, which was the core of the System until 1939.


A schematic representation of the four accelerating war cycles the ‘European System” produced during the period 1495-1945.


The fifth cycle started in 1945, following the fourth systemic war (the Second World War, 1939-1945). Its development was momentarily disturbed because of the intense rivalry between the United States and the Soviet-Union (1945-1991). After the collapse of the Soviet-Union, the System resumed its ‘normal’ chaotic war dynamics, which are intrinsically unpredictable. This should not have come as a surprise, as is the case for other typical dynamics and characteristics of the System.

But (not surprisingly) it did surprise politicians, policy makers and their advisors like the Clingendael Institute: ‘Old School’ International Relations-theory cannot provide useful insights in the workings of the System, it only creates self-fulfilling prophecies that will lead to war and conflict. It predicts when prediction is impossible (because of the chaotic nature of non-systemic war dynamics), and it does not predict when it could, if their paradigm would be adjusted.

Every war cycle, has a typical life cycle. We are now – analysis of war data suggests- in the what I name the ‘high-connectivity regime’ of the current cycle (since 2011 data suggests). During this phase, tensions and issues in the System can no longer be sufficiently released as a consequence of a network-effect, and instead of being released, tensions and unsolved issues accumulate in the System, and reinforce each other.

2011 png

This figure is a schematic representation of the typical life cycle of a war cycle. Data suggests that we reached the tipping point of the current cycle in 2011. 


It is a matter of time, before the System becomes critical, and produces a systemic war. Systemic wars – in which all Great Powers are involved – are instrumental in the design and implementation of ‘upgraded’ international orders, that again allow for a period of relative stability (a lower energy state of the System), and further growth and development. During high-connectivity regimes, the System is charging for a next systemic war, an ‘update’ of the System’s rule-set.

The accumulating tensions and unsolved issues in the System, result in radical and volatile dynamics in the System, in efforts of states and their societies to ‘handle’ these dysfunctional tensions. However, because of our limited understanding of the System, and the ‘selfish’ responses of states – responses that are typical for ‘realists’ and are closely related ‘Old School’ International relations theory – tensions will only further increase.

Policy must be shaped by science, not by wishful thinking (and narrow interests).