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


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We use the term "defense" to refer to a non-threatening strategy for responding to threats made by an opponent. It works by making it impossible for the threatening party to effectively carry out their threats. In classic military terms, defense is an impregnable fortress capable of repelling, at low cost and over the long term, any conceivable attack by an opponent. While defensive strategies are effectively able to block an attack, they do not simultaneously give the party an offensive capability which would allow them to successfully attack their opponents. Defensive strategies produce stable situations in which everyone is secure within their own sphere of influence, and no one thinks that they have a realistic chance of successfully invading the sphere of influence of an opponent.

While these principles are most commonly applied to physical threats, other power relationships can be structured in ways which enhance security and promote individual freedom by reducing the ability of people to threaten others unless they are acting in socially unacceptable ways. For example, political systems which place a high degree of control in the hands of local authorities can be seen as way of protecting a community from the unwanted political influence of outsiders. Similarly, legal principles which enforce individual rights and protection from criminal behavior can be seen as defensive because they limit the ability of others to threaten individuals.

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 President Reagan's Star Wars program, there is 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, and the two often tend to become intertwined as governments, like the United States, for instance, have "Departments of Defense," which while they are supposedly only empowered to act in defense of the United States and its interests, in reality, they may act offensively at times as well.


Links to Examples:

Alexander George -- The Role of Force in Diplomacy: A Continuing Dilemma for U.S. Foreign Policy
This article reviews the pros and cons of using force as a means of defense of U.S. interests.
William Perry -- Managing Conflict in the Post-Cold War Era
This article also reviews alternative defensive strategies in the current world situation.
Hugh Wyndham -- The Falklands: Failure of a Mission
In this case Britain was unwilling to allow what it perceived to be Argentinean aggression against a British colony succeed, while the Argentinean saw themselves acting defensively against unjust British occupation.
Paul Wehr- Toward Common Security in Central America
This paper explains the history, theory, and implementation of common security as an alternative to deterrence and other competitive or aggressive approaches to security

Links to Related Sections

Deterrence, Counter-Threats (and Arms Races)

Misunderstanding the Relationship Between Threat and Force

Failure to Anticipate Opponent Reactions and the Backlash Effect

Civilian Defense

Legitimizing the Use of Force

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