Intractable Conflict

Topics: Conflict, Dispute resolution, Protracted social conflict Pages: 6 (1890 words) Published: October 24, 2011

This paper will discuss the complex nature of intractable conflicts. We see them on the individual level like marital disputes, or longtime rivals. We generally see them between different groups based on ideology, like pro-choice vs. anti-abortion. Historically we have encountered them in disputes and wars between nations, like Israel vs. Palestine, and England vs. Ireland and even he World Wars. Intractable conflicts are common and have persisted through man-kinds history. Some question to be explored here are: * What is “Intractable conflict, its characteristics, and examples? * How or why do they arise? What are the contexts, issues, and relationships involved? * If possible, how can mediators address or intervene in these issues? Definition of Intractable Conflict

There is no concrete dictionary definition of intractable conflict. However Peter T. Coleman, professor of psychology and education at Columbia University’s Teachers College, describes intractable conflicts in the following way: “When destructive conflicts persist for long periods of time and resist every attempt to resolve them constructively, they can appear to take on a life of their own” (Coleman, 2006, p. 533). Intractable conflicts are sometimes referred to as “protracted social conflict,” a term developed by Edward Azar, former professor and head of Center for International Development and Conflict Management at University of Maryland. According to Azar,“When a group's identity is threatened or frustrated, intractable conflict is almost inevitable.” Protracted social conflict” as Edward Azar termed it, “denotes hostile interactions between communal groups that are based in deep-seated racial, ethnic, religious and cultural hatreds, and that persist over long periods of time with sporadic outbreaks of violence. (Smith, 2001, p. 308) . Intractable conflicts are those that prove extremely resistant to resolution. Intractable does not mean "irresolvable" in the context of intractable conflicts. Instead, an intractable conflict is a conflict which is highly resistant to mediation and difficult to resolve in a mutually agreeable manner (Burleigh, 2007 p.35). Examples of intractable conflicts include the Israeli-Palestinian issue, religious disputes, the abortion issue and homosexual rights. Intractable conflicts are often developed over long periods of time; usually not having a single incident that ignites them. They attract the involvement of many parties, involve a high level of animosity and alienation, and exhibit an increase in hostility and violence. Positive outcomes to intractable conflicts are unlikely. This thesis will focus on social and international conflicts and explore the complexity and difficult processes of intractable conflicts. Characteristics

Intractable conflicts cannot be viewed as a unitary phenomenon. They have many different features. Some conflicts are waged constructively, where the parties involved can bridge over their differences through negotiations or other amicable means. Other conflicts follow a more destructive path. Such conflicts may take place between individuals, groups, or nations, and simply resist any attempt at management; causing them to go on and on toward higher levels of hostility, intensity and usually violence (Fisher, 2001 pp. 192-193).

Cause Escalation
Most intractable conflicts could be easily resolved in the beginning, but actions or positions by the person's involved create a "win or else" mentality, or magnifies the apparent stakes. Conflicts that turn into repeated patterns of violence possess a greater likelihood of becoming intractable than conflicts that don't resort to violence. One characteristic of escalated conflicts that fall to violence is that the violence tends to harden the positions of the parties involved. Terrorism in the U.S. has always been a hot topic in foreign...
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