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

Illegitimate or Excessive Use of Force

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While people tend to resent being forced to do things against their will, the level of resentment increases dramatically when the force is seen as illegitimate. For example, most people think that it is legitimate for the police to enforce rules against reckless driving which endangers others. If people are arrested for reckless driving, they might resent it, but their resentment is likely to be limited if they know that they are guilty. Furthermore, their fellow citizens are likely to believe that the police were doing the right thing. If, on the other hand, the police were to threaten innocent drivers with reckless driving charges as a means of extracting bribes, this would be widely seen as illegitimate. The result is likely to be widespread resentment and hostility toward the police and government in general. It is also widely seen as illegitimate to ask officials to act in ways which clearly violate their responsibilities and would produce unfair decisions which would greatly favor one group over another. Similarly, use of military forces for conquest is widely seen as illegitimate; consequently, it is likely to produce an intense backlash effect. However, the use of military force to block aggression or acts of genocide is much more likely to be viewed as legitimate.

Force is also commonly viewed as illegitimate if it is seen as excessive and unnecessary.  For example, it  is generally considered  inappropriate for parties to file a lawsuit before they try to negotiate a voluntary resolution of their complaint. Similarly, it is usually illegitimate  for military force to be used before diplomatic options are exhausted.  In a similar way, the use deadly force by the police is commonly viewed as illegitimate, unless there is truly no other way to protect the public (and the police officers). Also, it is generally considered inappropriate for workers to call a strike before they have honestly tried to negotiate an acceptable labor contract.

Although any use of force can generate resentment, steps which increase legitimacy are likely to reduce the backlash effect, hence increasing the likelihood that force will succeed over both the short and long terms.  Parties which are being subjected to illegitimate uses of force are also more likely to attract sympathizers and allies. Conversely,  parties which use force in legitimate ways are more likely to attract sympathizers and allies. These effects are likely to be especially strong for those who have not yet decided which side of a conflict to support.

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. The resulting war, Peachy and others suggests was unnecessary and excessively destructive.
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.  Like Peachy, Rakisits sees the war as a likely example of unnecessary and excessive use of force to resolve a problem.
Paul Wahrhaftig -- The Myth of a "Just" War
This is yet another article that suggests that the Gulf War was excessive and unnecessary.
Hugh Wyndham -- The Falklands: Failure of a Mission
Britain perceived Argentina's use of force in the Falklands as illegitimate, even though they were unwilling to negotiation a settlement to the conflict for years. The result was war.
Neil J. Kritz -- The Dilemmas of Transitional Justice
This article discusses the alternative strategies available to respond to the illegitimate use of force by previous (and current) regimes.
Ruth Heimburg -- Extremists versus Police -- A Tragedy for All
Although the police in this case saw their use of force as legitimate, many outside observers felt it was excessive.
Peter Ackerman and Christopher Kruegler -- The Principles of Strategic Nonviolent Conflict
Nonviolent action can delegitimize the opponent's use of violence, the authors argue in this article.

Links to Outside Sources of Information:

IGC ConflictNet
ConflictNet is a network of people concerned about conflict and its resolution.   The site has news articles and commentary about many of the current serious conflict situations around the world.

Links to Possible Treatments for this Problem:

Legitimizing the Use of Force

Integrative Approaches

Links to Related Problems:

Failure to Anticipate Opponent Reactions and the Backlash Effect

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