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

Failure of the Parties to Recognize Available Force-based Options

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It is common for  parties in conflict to fail to recognize the full range of force-based options available to them and their opponents. For example, some parties may consider only military options involving physical force, while others might think solely in terms of strikes, economic boycotts, or sanctions. Still others may focus on election strategies or litigation-based strategies designed to obtain support from the political system, the courts, or the police. Failure to consider the full range of available options may lead  the parties to pursue confrontation strategies which are less likely to be successful.  For example, a party may pursue lengthy election campaign when there are grounds for a lawsuit that would be  much more likely to effectively advance their interests.  Or,  a group might pursue a violent, para-military resistance strategy when the strategy of non-violent protest is more likely to produce their desired change.

It is also important for the parties to honestly compare their force-based options with the options available to their opponents. Failure to do this can result in rapid defeat. For example, Iraq's failure to adequately assess the Coalition's force-based options led to a catastrophic defeat in the Gulf War.  Another problem which often leads people to incorrectly assess available options is a failure to consider the potential  for alliance formation and coalition building. Saddam Hussein may have under-estimated the ability of the U.S. to obtain support from other countries around the world (especially from other Arab countries and Russia), which may have caused him to miscalculate his chances to win a war in the Gulf.

People may also under-estimate their own ability to form coalitions.  For example, a group being subjected to continuing human rights abuses might fail to consider the possibility and the advantages of soliciting support from international organizations (such as Amnesty International or the U.N.) or from foreign citizens or governments.   Thus they may fail to build up their own power as much as they can to effectively combat the power of their opponent.

Links to Examples:

Dean Peachy -- Thoughts on the Failure of Negotiations in the Gulf
This short essay argues that the Gulf War occurred in part because the U.S. and its allies were unwilling to consider or wait long enough for nonviolent force-based options (such as economic sanctions)  to work.
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.
Chester Crocker -- Lessons on Intervention
This essay suggests that premature elections can actually polarize and escalate conflicts situations, rather than helping resolve them.  Other force-based options for intervention are often superior to elections in those situations, according to Crocker.
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.

Links to Possible Treatments for this Problem:

Inventory of Available Force Types

Types of Power Other than Force

Forcing Power Shortcuts

Links to Related Problems:

Assuming Force is the Only Available Option

Misunderstanding the Relationship Between Threat and Force

Pursuing Force to the Bitter End

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