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Published 2002   Restructured: 2 March 2018 Google Page Translation

Thoughts on the Assumptions of Conflict

on achieving security, assessment of possible strategies, factors leading to escalation, and thoughts on de-escalation

On achieving security
Assessment of Possible Strategies
Factors leading to escalation
Thoughts on de-escalation

How to stop the escalation of violence

On achieving security return to top

Security can not be achieved in conflict. Security is achieved through justice and honor for the two parties to a disagreement - either after an all out bloody confrontation ending in total defeat for one side and subsequent justice and honor, or before. If there is justice and honor, there is security.

Long range strategic planning must rule and not the short term tactical maneuvering which often operates under the guise of strategy.

Each side to a conflict must feel that his opponent sees him as an equal, a worthy adversary in conflict, or a partner in peace. If there is no honor given to the other side or the other is left to feel that he is not treated with honor, particularly when the professed goal of each side is to end conflict and achieve a lasting and equitable peace with security for both sides, then there is no option except conflict. Simply, it is necessary to conduct the conflict and the negotiations with honor and to treat the opposing side as equal.

The opposing side must never feel that they have nothing left to lose which often happens when honor is impinged. All the weapons that can be amassed and used are not sufficient if honor is not upheld.

Those who play with the honor card, in an effort to topple a leader, or to shame another into reversing policy, or to humiliate (especially an individual who symbolizes the struggle for his people) will in the end never succeed without a long and costly fight.

Either there is total defeat and subjugation which leads to a never ending struggle or there is a just and lasting peace arrived at by two sides to a conflict through a just solution with honor intact.

Assessment of Possible Strategies return to top
(although they may have worked in the past but under different circumstances with different end goals and different power bases)

  • physical destruction of symbols of authority
    under the assumption that the authority is singular
    under the assumption that authority is at least partially based on physical symbols of power
    under the assumption that the physical structures are important to the attainment of end goals
    under the assumption that physical property weighs more heavily than honor, vision, etc.
    under the assumption that some reaction is better than no reaction

    leads to an increase in the sympathy for the leadership
    leads to a strengthening of the authority as embattled but capable of continuance
    leads to the development of alternative means to achieve the same goals
    leads to continuation of the struggle since the physical structures are not central to the end goal and the loss has little meaning since it can be readily rebuilt

  • demand for total acquiescence
    under the assumption that once acquiescence is achieved, the other side will be more malleable in negotiation
    under the assumption that pride is not a relevant factor in an ongoing conflict
    under the assumption that the other side is willing to capitulate because it some of the following: Does not have the strength to continue, does not have its own agenda, recognizes the dominance of the other side, etc.

    leads to increased resistance to capitulation
    is interpreted as an attack on honor
    leads to a strengthened sense of honor to resist and fight

  • attempts to dislodge or destroy power base
    under the assumption that the power base is too weak to withstand
    under the assumption that another perhaps more moderate power base will replace old

    leads to a coalescence of power
    leads to a sense that national pride as well as the individual pride of the leadership is being threatened
    leads to a breakdown of those forces which can control more radical elements

  • attempts to limit movement of populations
    under the assumption that if population cannot communicate or congregate it can not prepare attacks
    under the assumption that there is greater control over the movement of weapons etc. from one area to another
    under the assumption that increased hardship of the population will cause a backlash against the leadership

    leads to a lowering of the standard of living of the population and increasing frustration
    leads to a sense of being unfairly penalized for the policies of a small segment of the population but increases a sense of unity under duress
    leads to an increase in the identification with the more radical elements of the population
    leads to new ways to get around the limitations thus providing new means of carrying forth the fight

  • construction of physical barriers for protection of the population
    under the assumption that physical barriers make entry less likely or at least more difficult, gives warning signal to prevent surprise, and gives a sense of greater security.

    leads to the development of new ways around the barriers
    leads to a situation in which warning signals are often too late, give too little time to react proportionally to the threat and are rarely sufficient to protect and can never be complete
    leads to a false sense of security so that there is in actually less preparedness

  • increased vigilance
    under the assumption that vigilance is sufficient to reduce the success of terrorist attacks

    leads to increase in the number of forces deployed without ever fully countering the threat
    leads to increasingly sophisticated means of circumventing by the other side which can lead to greater loss since the success rate is lower meaning that the payload must be greater to have an effect
    can lead to greater paranoia and hence unrealistic perceptions of the threat

  • increased counterintelligence
    under the assumption that knowledge of when attacks are planned can provide countermeasures and prevention

    leads to increased splintering and separation of power on opposite side
    leads to increased internal culling, summary sentencing and execution of 'traitors'
    leads to greater restrictions of the population and a subsequent loss of privacy, rights
    leads to increased counterintelligence as used by the other side

  • increased pressure on leadership to force compliance
    under the assumption that the leadership is weak and will reverse its tactics to stay in power
    under the assumption that the leadership is sensitive to what is happening to its infrastructure

    leads to heightened resolve to defy and push forward regardless of costs

  • targeting of central figures and active opponents
    under the assumption that if the leaders and most active members are removed from the field, the organizations they control will fall apart
    under the assumption that individuals will be afraid to take on leadership or active roles
    under the assumption that the number of individuals capable of carrying the fight forward are reduced

    leads to increased affirmation to carry the fight forward
    leads to increased sense of a need for revenge
    leads to greater purging of suspected informants
    leads to more fragmentation and hence less control by those capable of ending the conflict

  • increased separation of two interdependent populations involved in a conflict
    under the assumption that separation will increase security

    leads to more economic desperation with less work, less economic sufficiency of population and the search for alternative means to support self, family
    leads to the acceptance of support from outside sources which are generally inimical to peace
    leads to new methods of overcoming separation
    leads to greater coalescing of attitudes and fears and the view by both sides that the populations are different.

  • increased pressure on general population to cause it to put pressure on power base to capitulate or to change leadership
    under the assumption that the leadership in based principally on popular support
    under the assumption that the population has the power to overthrow the power base
    under the assumption that the population is not afraid of the power of the leadership base
    under the assumption that the population does not agree with the power base

    leads to increasing misery
    leads to increasing fodder for propaganda - the underdog syndrome
    leads to more desperation and the search for new means of economic survival and security (increase in the number of individuals willing to give themselves to the cause)

  • use of greater force in retaliation than that used in the instigating action
    under the assumption that if the opposing side sees that too much is being lost for too little gain, it will cease its activities and ask for peace

    leads to renewal of calls for revenge and increased activity toward retaliation and new round of violence
    leads to a sense of unfairness and hence a feeling of increased hatred and resolve to continue the fight

  • instant and sure retaliation for each act
    under the assumption that if they know that retaliation is sure and swift, they will not do whatever they plan to do for fear of the results

    leads to greater identification, anger, and in return, instant and sure revenge attacks

    Factors leading to escalation return to top

    Some of the following relate to one side, some to the other, and most to all sides in a conflict. Some may not appear to be relevant at any one point in time in the ongoing process, but this list represents the types of forces operating to keep a confrontation going and produce a cycle of violence which is difficult to break.

  • constant input of new reasons for retaliation
  • buildup of arms and means to fight
  • increased influx of funds from external sympathizers to finance operations creating a contract which must be fulfilled
  • worsening economic conditions leading individuals to perform extreme measures for family
  • increased insult to honor
  • increased pressure from general public for answers, security, revenge, retribution
  • loss of hope that the situation will get any better
  • increase in number of errors in targeting and erroneous deaths due to increase in activity
  • escalation of propaganda against the other side
  • increased challenge to be able to outsmart the opposite side
  • elevation of sense of duty to nation and family to new levels of martyrdom and new demographics
  • backlog of people emotionally, psychologically, physically ready to do whatever is needed
  • lack of a viable exit plan
  • entry level to negotiation unrealistic given the current forces at play
  • too many independent forces in play to form a unified front
  • increasingly myopic view of the ends, means, understanding of the other side
  • increasing isolation of leaders who still control hence weakening control capability
  • increasing humiliation of individuals seen as central to overall cause
  • increasing threat to opposing leadership thereby increasing attempts to protect, and prove right
  • increase in the development of a multitude of tactics to take the place of an overall strategy
  • increasing divisions within the power base leading to the assurance that the struggle will succeed and hence should continue
  • increase in measures which are seen as eventually separating the populations and hence the future possibility of partnership, economic cooperation leading to a sense of hopelessness
  • increasing disintegration of centralization of power base leading to increasing fragmentation and independent leadership which is not controlled by the center
  • sense of fragmentation of power which can only be counterbalanced by calls to rally and react

    Thoughts on de-escalation return to top

  • Actions which have been planned for days, weeks, months are not stopped and because of instant reaction and the ensuing outrage and anger, a new cycle of revenge is fueled.

  • Modulate response to fit or balance the attack according to ultimate goals and not the immediate or intermediate states of temporary balance or containment. Depending on overall strategy, the power of nonresponse should not be underestimated.

  • Final strategies of leaders, or hidden agendas, may be far reaching and sweeping, but it is the d day to day struggle which determines the final outcome. Leaders and their plans are temporary at their best unless all sides to a conflict keep the momentum going until they become reality.

  • A leader may have more or less regard to losses in lives than the general population, but in the end, it is the population which responds.

  • The pain of loss is the same for all populations involved. One population may be more willing to have loss based on the view of the battle which is being fought, but the pain is the same to family, parents, children, friends.

  • Reduce those actions which cause instant revenge responses from the other side.

  • Do not underestimate the resourcefulness of the opponent or the fact that development of new stages of conflict are self generating under duress.

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