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

Sacrifice Trap

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The leaders of groups involved in intractable conflicts frequently ask their constituents to make enormous sacrifices in pursuit of the group's overall objectives. In addition to time and money, constituents are frequently asked to endure enormous hardship, personal injury, and even death. People are willing to make these sacrifices because they believe that there are no less costly ways to protect their vital interests. This means that the ability of leaders to retain their positions requires that they continue to persuade their constituents that they have chosen the best course of action.  It is often politically unacceptable for the leaders to admit that they have made a mistake and that the sacrifices made have achieved nothing--or worse,  may even have hurt the group's ability to pursue its interests. People who actually make the sacrifices are also understandably reluctant to admit that they have served no useful purpose and that their confrontation strategy should be abandoned. For example, it is far easier to believe that your son was killed in a noble crusade, rather than in a stupid blunder. Since they want to believe they are right,  people are often very reluctant to abandon failed strategies, and this reluctance, ironically, tends to increase as the magnitude of the sacrifice increases. This problem, for example, helps explain why the United States continued to pursue conflict in Vietnam long after it became clear that it was a serious mistake.


Links to Examples:

Gareth Evans -- Iraq's Invasion of Kuwait in 1990: A Failure to use Preventive Diplomacy
This short article describes how Iraq got trapped into following through with the invasion of Kuwait and then not backing down in response to threat.

Links to Possible Treatments for this Problem:

Identify Sources of Power / Power Strategy Mix

Interest-Based Framing

Links to Related Problems:

Assuming Force is the Only Available Option

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