The Arc of Conflict: Three Articles on the Life of a Conflict




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Conflicts, because they are conducted by living beings, are in some sense living beings as well. Like other living beings they have life stages – they are born, they grow and strengthen, they mature, and in most cases, eventually die. Conflicts also exhibit significant “life events” over their lifespans from painful (and often violent) births, to intractable stalemates, to eventually, resolution and post-conflict rebuilding. Conflicts are also organic and don’t always resolve themselves in accordance with any easily quantifiable rules. Because conflicts don’t seem to follow precise rules, it becomes imperative for both policy makers and conflict theorists to develop both broad and deep understanding of the “lives” of conflicts. This dissertation is an attempt to do precisely that.

This dissertation develops contributions to understanding conflict “life events”– from armed secession attempts and government responses, to phases of seemingly endless fighting, to issues faced by peacekeeping organizations after the fighting ends. Each article explores a specific set of circumstances that could occur at particular stages of a conflict under study, but when taken together, add to a foundation of knowledge that could be used to guide both policy makers with practical application and academic theorists for further study.

The Three Articles

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do: A Case Study Of Sudan And The Secession Of South Sudan examines secessionist activities and the decision to fight, negotiate, or settle multiple separatist movements active in Sudan since 1956. This article explores the range of government responses to those secession attempts using a single country as a case study. Various groups have attempted secession through armed conflict in Sudan with varying results (one successful secession, at least one active secession conflict, and several defeated secessions).

Zombie Wars: Conflicts That Never Seem To Die applies a model originally developed to analyze personal conflicts to gain understanding into the psychology of intractable conflicts. The MACBE (motivation – affectation – cognition – behavior – environment) model provides a “system of systems” view into why parties in dispute often fail to respond in ways that other theorists (rationalists, economists, power theorists) would predict.

Strangers In A Strange Land: Organizational Learning During The United Nations Interim Security Force In Abyei (Unisfa) Mission evaluates the impact of a United Nations Peacekeeping unified operational command on the application of organizational learning over the course of a peacekeeping operation.



Conflict management, Peacekeeping forces, Secession—Sudan, Organizational learning, International law


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