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.
International Online Training Program On Intractable Conflict
Conflict Research Consortium, University of Colorado, USA
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The problem with purely defensive strategies is that the technical characteristics of many conflict situations may make them unworkable. For example, in spite of the enormous resources devoted to U.S. President Reagan's Star Wars program, there is still no realistic prospect for an effective defense against a large scale nuclear missile attack. Similarly, most army, navy and air force units can be relatively easily converted from a defensive to an offensive roles. In these and countless similar situations, the parties cannot depend on defense, and must decide to employ a deterrence or counterthreat strategy instead--a strategy in which the parties promise to respond to any attack with an attack of their own which is capable of doing enough damage to offset any benefits which the threatening party might expect from their initial attack. Thus, the assumption is made that no one will attack, because the risks are far higher than the likely benefits. In the most extreme example, the United States and the Soviet Union both deterred nuclear attack by promising to respond to any nuclear strike with devastating counter strike. The assumption was made (and tested several times) that neither country would actually allow a conflict to escalate far enough to initiate an actual war between the two superpowers (although proxy wars were fought many times).
The other advantage of a deterrence strategy is that is also gives a party a powerful offensive capability, should they decide to use it. Given this, however, deterrence strategies tend to led to an uncontrolled arms race. This can be extremely costly, and can actually reduce security, rather than increase it. In the United States, we refer to a saying called "Murphy's Law" which simply states that "if anything can go wrong, it will." This law is a popular joke, used to explain misfortune and bad luck. Conflict theorist Kenneth Boulding added the word "eventually"--which transformed the joke into a scientific fact -- "if anything can go wrong, it eventually will." (This is because anything that has a finite probability of happening, will, according to mathematical laws, eventually actually happen.) When applied to deterrence and counterthreats, this law means that if a deterrent threat is at all credible, it must be possible that it could be used. And if it is possible, eventually, it will happen. Thus, it is inevitable, that eventually, something will happen to trigger the confrontation--potentially the nuclear confrontation--that nobody wanted. For this reason, deterrence is a highly dangerous and unstable approach to threats which, while it seems to work, actually presents a greater problem than it provides a solution.
Bjorn Moller UN Military Demands and Non-Offensive Defense Collective Security Humanitarian Intervention and Peace Support Operations
Misunderstanding the Relationship Between Threat and Force
Failure to Anticipate Opponent Reactions and the Backlash Effect
Step-by-Step De-Escalation (GRIT)
Types of Power Other than Force
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