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Is it Futile to Use Legal Measures to Solve Violent/Intractable Conflict?


If violent/intractable conflicts are destructive, then using legal measures to resolve them may seem futile. Such conflict involves significant material and psychological investment, unrestrained escalation of the violence, and negative emotions and social costs. It is difficult to resolve conflict when people are deeply polarized, and the resulting resentment and fear can be devastating. In addition, these efforts require significant political will on both sides.

Unrestrained escalation

Most intractable conflicts are self-perpetuating. Even those that are tractable are often rendered intractable by unrestrained escalation. In such a scenario, it is easy to fall into the trap of escalation, and harder to climb out of it. Here are some insights on how to prevent and address intractable conflicts.

To begin to break this cycle, all parties involved should stop using indiscriminate mortars, using civilians as human shields, recruiting child soldiers, and carrying out other barbaric actions against other groups. Intractable conflicts are often embedded in a long history of differences and inequalities. They also often have roots in historical issues, such as colonialism, ethnocentrism, racism, sexism, and fundamental social structures visit at powerlineblog.

Negative emotions

System justification theory predicts that people with less negative emotions will engage in collective action. However, this is not necessarily the case. Emotion regulation may undermine attempts to engage in collective action when people feel negative emotions about a system. This theory may be useful to understand the role of negative emotions in collective action. It can be applied to a variety of contexts, including socio-political ones.

Coleman defines intractability as a special property of reciprocal interaction. This interaction involves the elements of conflict, such as context, issues, processes, and outcomes. Without this reciprocity, conflict cannot be properly understood. When conflict elements collapse into one mass, they become „us versus them“ narratives. The elements of intractability also resist change. In other words, when people feel victimized, they are more likely to engage in violence and dehumanize the other group.

Using these analyses to resolve violent/intractable conflict may be useful in understanding the role of these negative emotions. For example, studies on emotional reactions during interpersonal conflicts have shown that anger and disgust contribute to the breakdown of relationships. Further, anger and disgust contribute to hostile acts between groups. Disgust is a basic primary emotion, elicited by the perception of contamination or disease agents.

Intractable conflicts reveal a negative universal. While sharing is possible, opposing sides generally see compromise as a loss. Natural fear and hatred are particularly prevalent in societies, and opposing groups cannot imagine co-existing. Hence, they are willing to do whatever it takes to protect their way of life and ensure their survival. This is often the case when a conflict is too complex or intractable to be solved peacefully.

Negative socio-economic and psychological costs

The negative socio-economic and psychological costs of using legal means to resolve violent/intractable conflict are often overlooked in attempts to reduce the number of conflicting parties. Although these costs are largely associated with a higher risk of violence, they are sometimes unavoidable. Intractable conflicts often appear impossible to resolve, and their solution may seem elusive.

These negative costs arise when political and social institutions fail to address the underlying issues of violence in a conflict situation. Even in countries where political peace has been achieved, the risk of violence persists. In Mozambique, for instance, violent clashes have been seen after political peace agreements. However, in Northern Ireland, violence has continued sporadically since the 1998 peace agreement. This has led some commentators to argue that peace is premature.

Many intractable conflicts are not intractable at the start. In fact, they become intractable depending on how they are handled. High-level, violent conflicts can become intractable quickly. By contrast, conflicts that have minimal escalation and repeat patterns of violence can resolve themselves. In this context, the use of legal means may be necessary if the conflict is deemed too destructive for other methods.

The use of legal means to solve intractable conflict is associated with higher levels of tension and lower levels of satisfaction. While legal measures can help reduce tension, the psychological costs of using them are enormous. In some cases, the negative consequences of violence can be severe and lasting. In the case of Northern Ireland, a legal solution was not sufficient to end the violence. The Irish government and the Clinton administration played an important role in securing the peace deal.

Mitchell’s solution

Many consider The nature of violent/intractable conflict to be an impossible problem that defies popular approaches to conflict resolution. It is a large concern that includes conflict between communities and state actors that is often prolonged, resulting in social hardship and revenge. Because intractable conflict is not a problem with a clear-cut solution, it has survived for many years, despite its complex nature and seemingly impossible problem-solving methods. More read at News


The premise of Mitchell’s solution to violent/intractive conflict is that a peaceful resolution can prevent future violence and promote peace. The authors point to Mozambique as an example of how conflict can be managed without violent means. This model identifies third-party mediators and „catalysts,“ which are typically non-state groups such as churches and NGOs. These groups develop indirect negotiations with the party leaders and help them come to an agreement.

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