Cases in Conflict Management



In the last lesson, we examined some of the questions about escalation and de-escalation as techniques for conflict management.


In the past I have approached this week as comparative case studies. This year I have added additional readings from the field of ideational conflict, which offers the possibility of using cognitive affective maps (value maps) to identify areas for compromise and overlap, as introduced in week 2.


We will now examine two cases in some detail.  The violence in Sierra Leone began to spiral out of control in 1991, precipitating several phases of international intervention.  Regional, international and bilateral frameworks were involved, and we can compare the conflict management impact of ECOMOG, the UN missions (UNOMSIL and UNAMSIL), and International Military Assistance Training Teams between 1996 and 2001.  The second case is Israel-Palestine, about which much has been written.  These two cases help to illustrate the difference between international intervention in a weak state (Sierra Leone) and international support to conflict management when a strong state (Israel, with American backing) is engaged in a protracted conflict with non-state actors seeking statehood.  Can we derive any principles for the management of violence from these experiences?


An alternative approach to examining management is to focus on ideational conflict and ideas developed by Homer-Dixon and Thagard.

Learning Objectives

On completing this Lesson, you should be able to:

  • Describe the evolution of Israeli approaches to managing violence 1990-2005 OR describe the evolution of international approaches to managing violence in Sierra Leone from 1990-2001
  • Analyse the impact of third party intervention on levels of violence
  • Describe the role of indigenous security forces in controlling violence
  • Interpret the utility of different forms of intervention

Required Reading

Video Links

[new case studies to develop: escalation in the Spratley Islands; hybrid warfare in Ukraine, Crimea]

Weekly activities (online)

Online discussion will consider two cases. Sierra Leone represents multiple outside missions in a weak state, within which many of the functions of a state have been assumed by international agencies.  Israel-Palestine, on the other hand, has also seen multiple outside missions, but in the context of a strong state with superpower backing. Two sets of additional readings are provided for these two cases.

A third set of readings relates to ideational conflict (Paul Thagard and Thomas Homer-Dixon).

Optional Reading – Sierra Leone

This chronology of the Sierra Leone conflict is a good place to start for a review of the third party interventions.  This chronology from Africa Confidential focuses on the role of diamonds in fuelling the conflict, and provides good background detail about the “Sandline Affair”.


Abiodun Alao,   Sierra Leone: Tracing The Genesis Of A Controversy, The Royal Institute of International Affairs, Briefing No. 50, June 1998.  The arms transfer controversy to which Alao refers is the “Sandline Affair” in which the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) was implicated in payments made to sell arms to a mercenary company employed to secure mining interests and Kabbah’s government in Sierra Leone.


What next in Sierra Leone? This short briefing note indicates the importance of control of the Diamond fields.  As long as the RUF controls the source of funds, they can continue to act as political spoilers, which permits them to continue extracting wealth from the diamond fields.  Where this assessment got it wrong was in the resolve of the UK, which followed up its presence with the IMATT and CPTT.


chawla – unamsil, 2000  IDSA is an Indian-based strategic analysis think-tank.  This short briefing note describes the contribution and controversies surrounding the UN mission to Sierra Leone, and the crisis of the Lome Accord, a diplomatic milestone on the way to stabilisation.


hagman – sec and devt in SL, 2002   This 16-page conference report summarises the findings of a CIDA-sponsored workshop hosted by the International Peace Academy.  It brings together some of the military, diplomatic, and economic aspects of third party intervention, and discusses the links between restoration of security and subsequent development.


chege – SL back from the dead, 2002. The director of the University of Florida’s Centre for African Studies traces some of the causes of collapse and the lessons learned from international intervention to support recovery.

Optional Reading – Israel-Palestine

Evolution of the conflict and Conflict management strategies

Yaacov Bar-Siman-Tov, Ephraim Lavie, Kobi Michael, and Daniel Bar-Tal, The Israeli-Palestinian Violent Confrontation 2000-2004: From Conflict Resolution to Conflict Management, Jerusalem: Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, 2005. This 80 page booklet provides a succinct and largely objective view of the evolution of Israeli thinking. Look particularly at the sources, and consider how carefully this evaluation has been put together, using insights from Israeli and American intelligence sources


Cyrus Samii, “The Middle East Peace Process: where do we stand and what is the role of the Geneva initiative?” International Peace Academy, The New York Helmsley Hotel,  3 June 2004  This is a short conference summary which provides a quick overview of the problem and its evolution, with the Geneva Initiative at the centre.


Hadas Ziv, “The Beauracracy of Occupation: The District Civil Liaison Offices,”  Joint Report of Machsom Watch and Physicians for Human Rights – Israel.  This 64 page report concludes that the District Civil Liaison Offices are actually set up to obstruct rather than to serve the purpose of civil liaison, because their resources are inadequate to serve the identified needs of the Palestinian population.  It is provided as an example of the contrast between policy and bureaucratic practice which may impede conflict management.  This file is also linked to week 1 to provide an example of structural violence.

Planning Factors in Intervention

Chopra and McCallum, 2003 “Planning Considerations for International Involvement in Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” This 22 page document is an excellent example of a collaborative estimate or appreciation, in which a third party has engaged with colleagues able to take both sides of the conflict, to provide insights into factors affecting the success of intervention. The insights were applied in Israeli and international planning exercises.


Atallah et al, 2004.  Planning considerations for International involvement in Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian Territory. This 28 page document provides many of the factors which were actually used in preparation for Israeli disengagement from Gaza, but without significant international involvement. Some interesting questions are: why weren’t international third parties actually involved in the disengagement to a greater extent? How were they involved? What problems arose during and after the Israeli withdrawal, and how would international engagement have affected these aspects?


Atallah et al, 2004.  Planning Considerations…part II.” Note, in particular, the section on overcoming past failings.


Truman Centre draft report, “International Involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian Arena: From an International Force to a Monitoring Mechanism for Regional Stabilization” provided by conference organisers. In this 17 page draft, some elements were not supported by international participants, and some were rejected by Israeli protagonists.  Can you identify the problematic areas?

Ideational Conflict

Homer-Dixon et al, 2014 Cognitive Affective Mapping (CAM) and conflict analysis – conceptual structure of disputes

Thagard, 2010, use of Empathica software

Empathica software

Coleman, 2011