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Ingredients of Conflict Resolution

Conflict resolution takes on many forms and is an art which incorporates science—in that it incorporates numerous sciences— leaning more along the lines of hard soft sciences to the likes of psychology, economics, anthropology, just name a few. However, the soft sciences involved in the art also produce a craft in that each resolved conflict produces learned lessons and benefits both tangible and intangible due to the calculations made and applied by statesmen for ideal outcomes which will have on countries of people which can range from hundreds of thousands in earlier years, to billions in these modern times. Conflict resolution is the act of applying diplomacy to achieve the objective of conflict avoidance and escalation. In the struggle for the resolution of conflict regarding to the subject of the time, even getting the two or more opposing parties to take the time to set their natural inclinations for combat to the side and engage in the act which can be considered a pillar and often mistaken to be the purpose of diplomacy—negotiation. Conflict resolution is the art of incorporating knowledge, experience, and wisdoms by one or more with the intention of diffusing, de-escalating, and solving situations between parties in disagreement for the sake of the solutions which will result in temporary peace up until the next conflict between the same or other nations arise, but the managers of the prevention of crises ought to keep in mind that the best outcome of their efforts will be temporary at best, and at worst until the situation is over.

The bright side of the darkness that conflict evokes is that they don’t last forever; The Thirty Years Wars are proof of that. “The Peace of Westphalia that ended the Thirty Years Wars was the culmination of a thousand years of politico-military consolidation after the collapse of the Wester Roman Empire that gave rise to territorialized politico-military rule in Europe.”(Opello & Rosow)

The conflicts resolved by the Peace of Westphalia is what played a major role, introducing distribution of principles that state sovereignty and borders that became recognized universally. (Opello & Rosow) In fact, the Peace of Westphalia can be said to still be paying dividends through its impact on the world, as United Nations is still recognizing more and new sovereign nation-states and accepting applicants for the international system of peace maintenance—and system of peace obtainment when conflict arises and requires resolution.

One major component of conflict resolution is negotiation. In fact, it’s arguably the foundation of conflict resolution because if the act of conflict resolution was void of negotiation then conflicts would be worse, lacking civility and embracing an infinitely repeating cycle of anarchy and strive for hegemony via savagery sans consideration or remorse; Leading to the converse of diplomacy’s strive for peace—a strive for war. However, human beings are social creatures— hence the incorporation of soft sciences in diplomacy—rendering that an unlikely scenario; Also, peace in addition to the return to peace after temporary war is a constant goal. Therefore, it is mandatory to accomplish the multilaterally beneficial commencement of minimally temporary peace through resolved conflict.

Within the negotiation component of conflict resolution are principles to which aid the deliberating parties in the act and art. “Negotiation, by way of contrast, is the term usually used to describe more formal discussions and structural procedures for collaborative problem solving. Normally characterized by explicit agendas, exchanged proposals, face-to-face meetings between representatives in agreed-upon settings of time and place, established rules of accommodation, and sometimes lengthy deliberations.” (Craig and George)

There is a recognition of conflict with an emphasis placed on partnership. Negotiation involves interaction and interdependence among its participating parties seeking an outcome that will benefit their own interests in the confrontation of the conflicting situation which has evoked them to the endeavor of seeking to make demands which benefit not them alone but those involved in negotiations of similar matters, not if but when conflict arises in the future. Opello & George refer to this as an “adverse partnership”, because they are striving for victory via military combat yet paradoxically, are partnered to end the conflict and return to peace.

Negotiation has four principles which are tried and true—statesmen and even the local shopkeeper can profess the effectiveness of the principles in achieving what one wants from a situation, whether it be regarding a salary or resolving a gruesome conflict between longtime rival nation-states like India and Pakistan.

Negotiation requires shared interest in an agreement which requires both adversarial parties to arrive at the first step, acknowledging and agreeing that they are already cooperating in the resolution of a mutually shared problem, in which the stakes are high for both their countries and citizens—this should entice them to jointly conjure mutually beneficial treaties. In negotiation there resistance points which are the minimum and maximum demands in addition to their ideal and preferred results they want to obtain in the deal. The resistance point is the bottom line which they aren’t willing to compromise with the opposing side any further. The settlement range is the proof of converging interests between the conflicting parties which is a tool to determine the difficulty to achieve an agreement.

In order to arrive at an agreement between involved parties, there must be shared benefits perceived by all parties involved. Whatsoever is proposed should be advantageous to avoid further escalation. The human dimension of the art and science of negotiation is the acting negotiator. “None of the factors [principles] automatically exist or operate on its own, and must be applied by people who possess the requisite skill for the art & science of negotiation.” (Opello & George) The skill of negotiators requires one to be adept to effective communication while simultaneously calculating risk, benefit, and random variables which are likely to come into play, even that which has been previously unconsidered.

The other key component of conflict resolution is crisis management. Crisis management is a tool for avoiding conflicts and sudden use of military force. Although it is generally associated with emergencies at which time last-minute measures are kicked into play due to the sudden breakout of active or credible threats of force; Also, times when negotiations fail, or the stalemate of deterrence ends in a preemptive strike.

Like negotiation, crisis management has principles of its own. The first of which Opello & George refer to as from conflict to crisis— conflicts between potential adversaries occurs because both sides aren’t willing to concede to each other. There are times when nation will weigh its options and avoid unnecessary loss for either side by strategically standing down and allowing the other side to have their way for that issue. As the crisis commences, there is a mutual policy tension, in that each does what they deem necessary to maximize their own security and offenses which grants a realist’s scope to both sides of the situation at hand, which evokes self-restraint like deterrence.

The principle of crisis management, appropriate strategy, requires that careful political-military strategy be developed, combining force and statecraft suited for the situation. Both sides ought to have limited objectives to pursue in confrontation, and limited means proportional between objectives they want to pursue with consideration of the leverage applied in their pursuits so that the limitation of the mans is matched to limited ends.

In crisis management, there are operational principles and conditions such as: civilian control of military; Creation of pauses in tempo; Coordination of diplomatic and military moves; military measures are clear, show the side’s resolve, but are sufficient only for the at-hand crisis; Avoiding one’s military from seeming as if it’s more aggressive which would evoke the opposing party to preemptively strike; Demonstrate through military and diplomacy that negotiation is feasible and preferred over combat; In strategy, allow for the opposing side to have a way out of the crisis. These principles require skilled crisis managers to be objective in their representation and deliberation between parties by employing stellar judgment in addition to cognitive flexibility to suit the sudden and unexpected changes that crises entail.

The Treaty of Versailles was a grand folly, a demonstration of how a conjunction of people from around the globe—leaders at that—could accidentally demonstrate the negative effects of democracy on the world stage. The countries involved in the treaty demonstrated that happens when the wrong minds are ruling in the majority, and the law (international in the instance) was devised without consideration of the disastrous effects it may have for the beneficiaries and minority in the democratic scenario—which were excluded from partaking in the negotiations involving its own land in an act which has proven to be the epitome of coercive diplomacy, and a reason why each state ought to retain sovereignty. Since the minority was excluded, they were subjected to terms which they had no say in and resulted in them living under the tyrannical rule of the majority which turned out to be a contrasting ideology and dictatorship.

France wanted to assure that countries involved in World War I were rewarded for their sacrifice and contributions to the victory, punishing Germany, attempting to suffocate her with sanctions and restrictions which lead to the country and her allies being excluded from negotiations. It turned out to be a coercive act against Germany which led to the suffering of the German population. The Treaty of Versailles and its consequences such as Hitler’s rise to power were fueled by the decisions made by the negotiating nations which lacked scope of reciprocity, making skewed and power-hungry decisions, leaving Germany in a handicapped standing.

Lauren, Paul Gordon, et al. Force and Statecraft: Diplomatic Challenges of Our Time. Oxford University Press, 2014.
Schweizer, Karl. "Case Study: The Treaty of Versailles " International Relations, 11/15/22, New Jersey Institute of Technology.