Kinds of Questions CASCON Can Help Answer
CASCON is a decision-support system. The computer does not make policy decisions or
predict the future. CASCON is a sophisticated, yet flexible, system for storing and
manipulating information about conflicts. As is true of any computerized system, the
thinking has to be done by the user. What it can do is make available on a desktop or
laptop computer a handy tool for learning or analysis, along with a rich store of usable
information. Given some purpose on the user's part, CASCON can help to answer questions
the user has formulated and to reach conclusions about the dynamics of conflict. Here are
some of the kinds of questions one might have in mind when using CASCON:
- What happened in the Afghanistan war of 1979-88?
CASCON contains an on-line mini-history, called a precis, for each database case.
- I am concerned about possible conflicts breaking out in Southeast Asia. Can I study
the cases there that did not become wars and get some clues as to the reasons? CASCON
can isolate the cases in the "Pacific, South, and Southeast Asia" region that
did not go on to hostilities so that the patterns of factor codings can be studied.
- I am studying a dispute that is currently brewing in the Middle East. Can I match
this situation against other cases at a similar stage to make some informed guesses as to
what might happen? The new case can be entered into CASCON and compared against some
or all of the other cases in the same phase to seek common patterns. CASCON does not make
predictions about the way a new conflict will unfold, but it will help identify situations
that appear to be most like it at this particular stage, and outline what happened in
- Can I invent a conflict situation of my own design -- a kind of imaginary
"future history" -- and use it to study the larger universe of conflict?
Just as with a real case, a hypothetical case can be coded, entered into CASCON, and used
in the same fashion as real cases.
- Can I completely ignore regional boundaries in coming up with some suggestive
indicators for early warning? CASCON can limit cases to a region or not as the user
- Can I test hypotheses regarding correlations between various elements of conflicts in
order to generate suggestions for further research or for policy purposes? CASCON
offers users a wide variety of tools that can be used in combinations of their own
devising. For instance, what other groupings of cases have factors coded in certain ways?
What groupings of factors were coded a certain way in some or all cases?
- Can CASCON help me to abstract "ideal types" of conflict situations based
on observed patterns that might make for a sort of "template" for checking
against unfolding disputes --rather like an airline's "hijacker profile?"
Although every conflict is unique in its actors, locale, conditions, and history, there
are common features that often cut across regions and types. CASCON provides several
synthetic "profile" cases that can be compared to new user cases. Users can
construct additional synthetic "profile" cases based on their own conclusions.
See Bloomfield's article "Why Wars End" for an
example of the power of CASCON.
Remember that, however intriguing a computerized system, it will always be less
sophisticated than the complex models and histories that reside inside the heads of
experienced professionals. CASCON can help point out features and directions, but in the
end analytical results rely on the user's understanding and skill.
Copyright © 1999 Lincoln P. Bloomfield and Allen