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 Force is the Only Source of Power

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In addition to failing to consider available force-based approaches, it is also common for the parties to fail to fully consider options for advancing their interests based upon integrative or exchange-based strategies. For example, the parties may conclude that there are no benefits to be gained from integrative strategies which would appeal to a common sense of community  or common values because they do not think there are any such values.  Or they may think that their opponent is so committed to the conflict or their own views that any attempt to change those views would be a waste of time.  Similarly, parties may not consider negotiation as a way of pursuing opportunities for mutual gain, because they assume that that they have nothing to trade or that the other side would not be willing to talk.  The result is that the parties often do not even try to overcome the obstacles to the successful use of these approaches. While such concerns are sometimes legitimate, often they are not.  Exchange strategies and integrative strategies are often valuable to try in conjunction with force, or as a first alternative to force, because they are likely to improve the situation incrementally, even if they do not resolve the conflict as a whole.

In general  this problem can be effectively treated by systematically identifying all possible force-based options (along with exchange-based and integrative approaches).     In addition it is also important that the relative advantages and disadvantages of each option  be assessed.   Finally, the parties must be sure to examine their opponents' options.

Intermediaries would approach this problem from a somewhat different perspective. Instead of trying to assess their power and the power of their opponents, intermediaries might focus on helping the parties understand their force-based options and the options of their opponents.

For more information about integrative approaches click here; for information about exchange-based approaches click here.

Links to More Information About and Examples of This Problem:

Kenneth E. Boulding--Three Faces of Power
This is a summary of Boulding's book which explains his theory about power taking three forms--threat (force), exchange, and love (the integrative system.  This book provided several of the key theoretical ideas behind the constructive confrontation approach, especially ideas about alternatives to force.
Claude Rakisits -- The Gulf Crisis: Failure of Preventive Diplomacy
This article examines reasons for the Gulf War. Rakisits believes that a full range of possible responses to this crisis were not adequately considered or attempted.
Rudy Friesen -- Reflections on Oka: The Mohawk Confrontation
This is another example in which negotiation was not seriously considered.
Ruth Heimburg -- Extremists versus Police -- A Tragedy for All
In this story about a stand-off between police and an extremist group in the United States, the failure to consider alternative options is apparent.
Robin Crews - Nonviolent Peacekeeping: The Only Alternative
In this presentation, Crews argues that violence cannot solve intergroup conflicts, that nonviolent approaches are the only options that stand to succeed

Links to Possible Treatments of This Problem:

Exchange Treatments

Integrative Treatments

Conflict Mapping

Analysis of Similar Conflicts

Identify Strategic Options and Costing

Identify Sources of Power / Power Strategy Mix


Links to Related Problems:

Overly Competitive Approaches to a Conflict

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