Managing Conflicts in Progress



Prevention does not always work, and violent military action can be part of a prevention strategy.  For the military planner, the challenge is to devise strategies that control and de-escalate the level of violence.  But conflict escalation may also be part of the management strategy, and military forces in this role must be used in a way that contributes to conscious management, rather than laying the foundation for prolonging or exacerbating conflict.  Planners need to be aware of the long-term consequences of military efforts to control levels of violence.  The short-term objectives of stability or removing a “spoiler” may favour strategies that have undesirable longer-term consequences.  After escalation to remove a spoiler or separation to achieve cessation of hostilities, how can military intervention contribute to de-escalation and movement toward settlement?


We can look at two different, but related sets of tools for the management of violence: those applicable in conflicts between states, typically the ones listed in the UN Handbook for the Resolution of Disputes; and those applicable to inter-communal conflicts within states.

Learning Objectives

On completing this Lesson, you should be able to:

  • Describe inter-state diplomatic tools for third-party intervention
  • Describe third-party tools for sub-state intervention
  • Analyse campaigns for de-escalation
  • Explain offensive and defensive elements of de-escalation campaigns
  • Explain coercive inducement
  • Explain the conditions under which deterrence and compellence help avoid violence

Required Reading

  • Presentation – Managing violence
  • Diehl and Balas, Chapter 3, Interagency coordination
  • Butler, Chapter 6, Mediation
  • Butler, Chapter 8, Enforcement

Weekly activities

Review and Discussion Questions

1. The UN Handbook on the Peaceful Resolution of Disputes describes basic diplomatic tools for the management of conflict between states:

a. How might military forces or personnel be implicated in the use of these tools?

b. Which might be applied to intra-state conflict, and under what circumstances?

c. How do these “Chapter Six” tools relate to more coercive “Chapter Seven” instruments?

2. In addition to the diplomatic tools listed in the UN Handbook, third parties might try a number of Track II and Track III techniques which are particularly applicable to intrastate conflict:

a. What are these tools?

b. How do they relate to Track I diplomacy?

c. How might military forces or personnel be implicated in these tools?

3. Military interactions between parties to a conflict affect both Track I and Track II efforts to control the violence:

a. Are outbursts of violence typically linked to the strategic objectives of the parties?  If not, how do they arise?  As a military third party, how do you know?

b. Have you ever been involved in a circumstance which might call for a de-escalation campaign?

c. What are the elements of a de-escalation campaign?

d. How do these elements link to Track I and Track II diplomacy?

4. In this course, we describe “defensive” action to stop the parties from shooting and moving against each other, and “offensive” action to address proximate and underlying causes of violence:

a. How might a successful defence impede a subsequent offense?

b. What is the balance of combat and contact skills in offensive and defensive campaigns against violence?

c. How does the degree of consent affect the balance of offensive and defensive action?

5. The application of conflict resolution tools depends on the consent of the parties.  Sometimes “sticks” and “carrots” can be applied within a framework of political “Realism” to elicit that consent.

a. What is “coercive inducement” and how does it work?

b. How does “compellence” differ from “deterrence”?

c. Explain the conditions under which deterrence and compellence might work to prevent violence

Optional Reading

These articles cast additional light on several of the tools used in managing violence.