Introduction

The news alone illustrates the gravity of the violence problem. For instance:

  • Rwandan Genocide Survivor Recalls Horror (CBS)
  • AFGHANISTAN: Kandahar violence escalates despite Karzai vow
  • DR of Congo Rebel Massacre of Hundreds is Uncovered (BBC)
  • How a Document Determines Which Palestinian You Are
  • Drug Violence Spins Mexico Toward Civil War
  • "Rampant violence is Latin America's Worst Epidemic"

The front page of any major newspaper will include more such stories — practically every day.

Since our goal is to reduce (and eventually end) war and it's associated human suffering, while promoting good governance and sustainable development, the importance of limiting violence and intimidation is pretty obvious.

The twentieth century was the deadliest in all of human history. With some 8 million Jews murdered in the Holocaust and nearly a million Rwandans slaughtered in a 100-day period in 1994, the 20th century truly earned the moniker "the age of genocide." Two world wars, numerous decolonization struggles, and civil wars also occurred in the latter half of the twentieth century and continued into the twenty-first. Added to that were some of the most horrific acts of terrorism in history, followed by two particularly protracted, difficult, and costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those, along with the Israel-Palestinian conflict, Iran's nuclear ambitions, and now the multiple challenges to Arab regimes — a few largely nonviolent, but others very violent — continue to destabilize much of the Middle East.[1]

In addition to loss of life, violence has many more long-lasting costs: debilitating injuries to combatants and non-combatants alike, grave psychological harm, destruction of public infrastructure and private property (homes and businesses), and the diversion of capital to destruction, rather than production and human betterment.

More information about the costs of violence and intimidation can be found in the articles below:

  • Costs of Intractable Conflict: Originally written in 2004 for Beyond Intractability, this article still gives a good overview of the costs of violence and war — in human, economic, and organizational terms. It then asks the obvious question — if violence and war is so damaging, why is it so often used? And when it is used and it fails to accomplish the desired goals (as it so often does), the article examines why disputants seldom "just quit." Related articles include:
    • The Economic Welfare Costs of Conflict: An Empirical Assessment (CESifo)
    • Damaged or Destroyed Relationships
    • Decision Making Delay
  • Coercive Power Violence and threats are often thought to be the most effective form of power because they often succeed in getting another person, organization, or nation state to do what one wants. But that compliance often comes at considerable cost — not just in human and monetary terms, but in terms of stability. People don't like being coerced, so they often respond with resentment and hostility, and may well lash back with violence themselves at their first apparent opportunity. Related articles include:
    • Power Inequities
    • Aggression
    • Revenge and the Backlash Effect
    • Sanctions
    • Exchange Power
    • Integrative Power
  • Humiliation Violence and intimidation often result in the humiliation of the victim, which goes beyond coercion in promoting rage and desire for revenge. Calling it the "nuclear bomb" of emotions, social pyschologist Evelyn Lindner says humiliation has the tendency "to destroy everything in its path," victim and perpetrator alike. Although the perpetrator often thinks and acts as if he/she will always have the upper hand, power tends to cycle: the powerful are disempowered, and the disempowered move up in status. Sometimes the people who were tormented forgive and move on, but more often they perpetrate a cycle of conflict escalation and violence as they seek retrobution. Related articles on other psychological drivers of violence and intimidation include:

Guy Burgess is a Founder and Co-Director of the University of Colorado Conflict Information Consortium. He holds a Ph.D. in Sociology and has been working in the conflict resolution field, as a scholar and a practitioner, since 1979. His primary interests involve the study and management of intractable conflicts, public policy dispute resolution, and the dissemination of conflict resolution knowledge over the Internet. He is one of the primary authors and creators of the Online Training Program on Intractable Conflicts, and is the Co-Director of CRInfo -- the Conflict Resolution Information Source. Dr. Burgess has edited and authored a number of books and articles, the most recent being The Encyclopedia of Conflict Resolution (with Heidi Burgess, ABC-Clio 1999). www.beyondintractability.org