Conflict Resolution Styles

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  • 0:00 Why Solve Conflicts?
  • 0:40 Diplomatic
  • 1:45 Economic
  • 2:50 Military
  • 4:20 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

Countries disagree with each other very frequently, but yet there are only a few wars for each of those disagreements. How do countries avoid resorting to force? This lesson explains the options open to countries to resolve conflicts.

Why Solve Conflicts?

Let's say that you've just been made the president to a country that is having problems with its neighbor. In the past, the relationship with this neighbor has been particularly good, but in the last decade or so, it has deteriorated significantly. In fact, your satellites report that they have recently aimed a number of missiles at your country! What are you to do?

Of course, there is a serious temptation to just go in and teach them a lesson with your military. But do you really want to explain why you invaded a country to the people whose relatives were hurt or killed during the invasion? Instead, chances are you have a whole list of steps that you would be willing to take to solve conflicts with this or any other neighbor.

Diplomatic

The very first thing that most countries do when attempting to solve a conflict is to try to talk it out. After all, wouldn't you do that if a friend of yours had upset you? Typically, talks can be either very fast or slow, going for days or even years. However, such a diplomatic solution, relying on people talking rather than taking any other action, is appealing to a president for a number of reasons.

First of all, no one gets hurt. Second, it's cheap; other than the cost of hiring the diplomats, you really don't have any costs. Third, it is viewed with a great deal of prestige around the world. Prizes, like the Nobel Peace Prize, are given to presidents who are able to reach peaceful agreements to resolve conflict with their neighbors through diplomatic means. Many countries would be ashamed for news of missiles pointed at a neighbor to be released to the rest of the world because it makes them look like a bully.

But what if diplomacy doesn't work? After all, you want action, not to be lied to over a conference table. Let's say that diplomacy fails. What do you do then?

Economic

After years of trying negotiations, it is clear when a diplomatic solution simply won't work. Despite you telling your neighbor of your differences of opinion about those missiles pointed at your capital city, it's clear that they just tell you anything to make you stop talking. Another step of action is needed. At this point, many countries would rely on economic sanctions, or trying to get other countries to stop trading or halt financial relations with a targeted country.

Economic sanctions can come in a variety of degrees. Let's say that you wanted to only target the leader of that neighboring country. Through sanctions, you can ask other countries to make any bank accounts or assets held by that person to be inaccessible. Meanwhile, you can also try to stop any countries from exporting the equipment needed to build or maintain those missiles. In an extreme move, you can try to make people so unhappy with their leader that they overthrow him. As you can see, economic sanctions are a very powerful weapon.

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