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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Defiance is based upon the fact that people commonly make threats that they are unwilling or unable to carry out. The word we use for this in the United States is "bluffing"--pretending to have the ability and willingness to do something that you really do not have the ability to do.  In cases where the threatening party is bluffing, the threatened party can often successfully resist by defying the threat or "calling the opponent's bluff." For example, if a government threatens to arrest everyone who participates in a protest march, organizers of the march might conclude that the government does not have the political will (nor the police forces) to jail hundreds of thousands of protesters. So they may "call the government's bluff" by marching anyway, and forcing the government to admit that they cannot do anything about it. Or, workers might threaten a lengthy strike, but employers might conclude that the workers do not have the resources needed to do without paychecks for an extended period.   They could challenge the workers to a strike, assuming that they would, in actuality, quickly give in.  Or, the international community might threaten military action against the government which is committing genocide against its own citizens.   However that government might decide that the international community is unwilling to follow through on the threat because it does not want to spend the money or risk the casualties of an enforcement action.

Parties who engage in the bluff-calling or defiance need to recognize that they are placing the threatening party under enormous pressure. If the threatening party does not back up its threat, then it is likely to reduce its ability to use threat-based strategies in the future. As a result, defiance often leads to an all-out confrontation.

Links to Examples:

Gareth Evans -- Iraq's Invasion of Kuwait in 1990: A Failure to use Preventive Diplomacy
Iraq defied the U.S. Coalition threats, leading to the Gulf War. This article and the following one discuss why this occurred.
Dean Peachy -- Thoughts on the Failure of Negotiations in the Gulf
This is another analysis of the Gulf War and the misinterpretations of the perseverance of both sides.
Claude Rakisits -- The Gulf Crisis: Failure of Preventive Diplomacy
This is a third analysis of what went wrong in the Gulf War.
William Perry -- Managing Conflict in the Post-Cold War Era
Threats must be backed up by the political will to use force, Perry says.  When this link is missing, threats are likely to be defied.
Report of Aspen Institute's Conference on Intervention in the Post-Cold War World:  Key Findings, Ideas, and Recommendations
This report discusses when threats are effective and when they are likely to be defied.
Hugh Wyndham -- The Falklands: Failure of a Mission
Neither Britain nor Argentina were deterred by the threats of military action by the other, which resulted in the Falklands war.
Ruth Heimburg -- Extremists versus Police -- A Tragedy for All
In this illustration, the extremist group defied police threats--which escalated the conflict and eventually resulted in many unnecessary deaths.

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


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