We are in the process of adding an "Intractable Conflict in the News" section to Beyond Intractability that is intended to serve two purposes. The first is to better illuminate the many ways in which society's efforts to successfully grapple with its tough problems are being limited by its inability to deal with a broad range of intractable conflict-related problems. We also want call attention to the fact that efforts to deal with these problems will require a synthesis of the core areas and expertise of the peacebuilding and conflict resolution fields with a much broader array of insights from a wide range of adjacent fields.

To do this, we have started (and we hope the BI community will help us expand) a blog that highlights insightful reports from quality news organizations, provocative opinion pieces, and the many books and reports upon which these articles are often based. In highlighting these materials, we will include a short introduction that explains why we think that a particular publication merits consideration in this context. Our hope is that the materials will promote personal reflection and, on occasion, initiate a BI-based conversation using our "Comment" system.

In terms of organization, we have initially focused on three topics that collectively go to the core of some of today's most important and intractable public policy conflicts.


One section focuses on the "hyper-partisanship" problem. While the problems of excessive partisanship — and associated diminished problem-solving abilities — have long been lamented, there is good reason to believe (at least in the United States) that they are becoming ever more serious. The problem seems to arise when political leaders and their constituents become so focused on "winning" that it becomes impossible to pursue policies that seek to equitably balance the interests of all. In so doing, these dynamics can make it impossible to make use of a great many of the insights that lie at the core of the peace and conflict fields. In this blog, our focus is on materials that help us understand the many things that are going wrong and how they might be corrected. (While, as a U.S.-based program, our initial focus is on the United States, we welcome information about how other countries are struggling with similar problems.)

Have / Have-Not Conflicts

A second problem involves serious and (we think) intensifying tensions between the "Haves" (people who are benefiting from social and economic dynamics that increasingly concentrate wealth and power in the hands of a very few) and the "Have-Nots" (people who, at the extreme, face a world of serious deprivation with no realistic prospects for improvement). The resulting gross inequities constitute a terrible human tragedy in their own right, and they are fostering deepening and dangerous social tensions. Here again, our goal is to highlight materials that illuminate the nature of the problem and explore possible solutions. We seek a sophisticated understanding of the complex social and economic dynamics that are involved, and we want to get past the simplistic and unrealistic explanations that are so common.

War, Tyranny, and Failed States

Our third (and perhaps most challenging) thematic area focuses on the special problems faced by those struggling to build a livable future in societies torn apart by war, tyranny, or state failure. The question here, quite simply, is how to produce revolutionary transformations that truly advance the interests of the great mass of the population and do not simply result in the exchange of one tyrant for another. Again, we are looking to clarify the nature of the problem and explore solutions that truly try to address its complexity.

As should be obvious, all of these problems demonstrate a remarkable degree of intractability. We are under no illusions that there will be quick and easy solutions. Success will, at best, take decades. Still, if we try, there are undoubtedly actions we can take to make things better over both the near and the longer term.

2 Oct 2013
A glimpse into what happens when peace and justice advocates have to "practice what they preach."

19 Jun 2013
Google's 30-year time-lapse imagery of the Earth demonstrates the need to more wisely and equitably manage the commons.

8 May 2013
A recent NPR article highlights an important new book, Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People, which illuminates subtle factors that help define identity groups and fuel the "have / have-not" problem.

11 Apr 2013
Gallup has released the results of a poll in which Democrats, Republicans, and Independents were asked for positive and negative statements pertaining to the two major U.S. political parties. While many of the poll responses are unsurprising, one of the poll's revelations is quite notable: Respondents from all three groups considered the Republican party's biggest problem to be that it is "inflexible/unwilling to compromise".

19 Mar 2013

How do you think that the conflict and peace textbooks of 2033 will compare to those of today? What differences will there be in terms of the ideas presented, the sources of information, and even the structure of the textbook? Might there be a paradigm shift that, at the societal level, brings us a lot closer to truly complexity-oriented peacebuilding? At the interpersonal level, will there be a corresponding shift toward a much more complex and realistic view of how humans actually make conflict-related decisions?

12 Mar 2013
A recent NPR story highlights a series of books documenting the disappointing results of Haitian aid efforts following the devastating earthquake of January 2010. Since efforts to rebuild war-torn societies and address the terrible divide between the "haves" and the "have-nots" all depend on the success of similar aid programs, the Haitian story constitutes a cautionary tale for all those concerned with the problem of intractable conflict.

8 Mar 2013
In Denver, a city scarred by gun violence, the Washington Post reports that public schools are implementing a thoughtful, balanced approach to violence prevention — one that includes escalation control, restorative justice, and clear policies for determining the limits of police intervention.

4 Mar 2013
As currently structured, the US Presidency may make hyper-partisan confrontation and stalemate unavoidable. This suggests that it is prudent to start thinking about how the institution might be restructured in ways that would improve its ability to make wise, equitable, and efficient decisions. NPR offers three creative ideas for starting such an outside-the-box discussion.

19 Feb 2013
In his article, "The Virtual Middle Class Rises," Tom Friedman makes an important observation. Explosive growth in the use of mobile digital devices within relatively impoverished, disempowered, and oppressed communities is connecting people and fueling demands for major reforms. This is producing hopeful opportunities for meaningful change. Unfortunately, there is an accompanying danger of violent ruthless repression, revolutionary chaos, and the replacement of old forms of repression with new ones.

19 Feb 2013

Some of the most inhuman things that people do to one another are made possible by greedy interests who, in their drive to selfishly exploit resources to the fullest extent possible, condone unspeakable acts of violence with little to fear in terms of real consequences. Various proposals are being considered to make this kind of conduct comparable to that of more traditional war criminals. Would this help? Is it feasible? Are there better ways to deal with the problem? These are all tough questions worth asking.


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