Destructive Conflict is the Most Serious Threat to Our Common Future

It ruins personal lives, prevents us from solving common problems, and underlies dystopian trends toward authoritarianism, chaos, and large-scale violence.

Intractable Conflict Challenge | The Complexity of the Conflict Problem | We All Have a Role to Play

We believe that the destructive-conflict-as-usual way in which the U.S. and many other societies now commonly address complex, large-scale, intractable conflict represents the single greatest threat to humanity and the planet.  Conflict problems are threatening all societies worldwide with some combination of three dystopian futures:

Constructive Conflict
Initiative

Join us in calling for a dramatic expansion of efforts to limit the destructiveness of intractable conflict.

  • Anocracy – Failed systems of governance that prevent societies from wisely and equitably addressing key social, economic, and environmental problems;
  • Autocracy – The cynical exploitation of underlying social tensions by plutocratic and authoritarian actors using divide-and-conquer strategies to increasingly dominate and exploit citizens politically and economically; and
  • War – The escalation of tensions between deeply-divided social groups and between competing authoritarians and plutocrats to the point of large-scale and, potentially, catastrophic violence and destruction.

These conflict problems also undermine the ability of democracies to pursue the not-yet-realized ideal of governance that truly is "of the people, by the people, and for the people."  After all, in successful democracies, conflict is the principal mechanism through which unwise and unjust policies are challenged (and unwise and unjust challenges are rejected).  

We call attention to these dismal, dystopian trends with a fair amount of trepidation. In today's booming times, life is really very good, at least when viewed from the perspective of successful high-tech communities like the one in which we live.  Still, having spent most of our careers studying war, civil unrest, and destructive intractable conflicts, we have learned that things can go badly very fast in often very surprising ways.  Clearly, there are dangerous storm clouds on the near horizon.  If we wait for the big crisis to hit before acting, it will almost certainly be too late.  So, let's take advantage of the time we do have and try to figure out how how we can handle our conflicts more constructively. 

More information about our reasoning is contained in a series of short video lectures from our Conflict Frontiers Seminar listed below.  We also provide links to a number of articles from our BI in Context section that support our contention that the threat is very real.

Conflict Frontiers Videos: