OTPIC Officially Retired

As of December 2, 2005, the Online Training Program on Intractable Conflict (OTPIC) has been officially retired, and is no longer open to new registrations.

The successor to OTPIC is a course called Dealing Constructively with Intractable Conflicts (DCIC). The new curriculum is built around one of our major projects, Beyond Intractability, and offers a much more extensive and informative set of learning materials than that available through OTPIC.

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International Online Training Program On Intractable Conflict

Conflict Research Consortium, University of Colorado, USA

Assuming Monolithic, Worst Case Opponent

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Often disputants think that the most extreme individuals on the opposing side are, in fact, representative of  all other members of the opposing group. If a few extremists on one side advocate violence or another form of force, their opponents may assume, for instance, that their all their opponents will quickly turn to violence or other form of force, and thus they must be prepared to resist, no matter what happens. This often leads disputants to take more forceful actions of their own. But then the opponents are likely to interpret these actions as unnecessarily aggressive, and use them to justify their own worst-case planning. In addition, disputants sometimes assume that all of their opponents approach the conflict in the same way. 

The media tends to accentuate this problem, since they often give the most press coverage to the most extreme people and statements.  This, then leads people on the other side to conclude that their opposition really is as outrageous as their most outrageous individual members, while in reality, most of the opposition group, and even the leadership may be much more moderate.

Usually there is a great deal of variation in the goals and  motivations of a group of advocates. A failure to recognize these differences or to employ different strategies for individuals with different characteristics is likely to significantly reduce one's effectiveness, while escalating the conflict more than is necessary. Further, when all opponents are treated as extremists, they tend to become so in response to what they perceive as overly harsh actions on the part of the other side.


Links to Examples:

Paul Wahrhaftig -- The Myth of a "Just" War
This is a second article by Wahrhaftig that elaborates further on the stereotypes that led to the Gulf War.
 
Ruth Heimburg -- Extremists versus Police -- A Tragedy for All
The worst-case assumption was partly to blame for this tragedy.

Links to Possible Treatments for this Problem:

Criminal Prosecution

Legitimizing the Use of Force

Power Strategy Mix

Links to Related Problems:

Escalation

Extremists


Copyright 1998 Conflict Research Consortium  -- Contact: crc@colorado.edu