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Jacob Bercovitch and Patrick M. Regan


In a recent comprehensive review on the scientific study of conflict and war, Bremer  (1993) summarizes what is known about these phenomena and, traces the parameters of the 'mental model' of conflict.  Bremer's catalogue of research findings, surveying hundreds of studies, is quite impressive.  It is also, alas, a reminder of how little we know about conflict termination and conflict management. The causes, characteristics and consequences, as well as the dynamics of conflict, and the various modes of transition from conflict formation to maturation are well represented in a myriad of studies. The final phase of the process, that of  conflict termination, has been all but neglected.

At no time has the study of conflict termination faced such challenges, nor been so relevant to policy-makers, as it has since the end of the Cold War.  The growing number of new forms of conflict (eg. ethnic, religious, etc.), the persistence of some armed conflicts (eg. Korea, India-Pakistan,  Arab-Israeli), and the growing cooperation between the major powers, have all helped to affirm global interest in dealing with, or responding to, conflict.  Responses to conflict are not pre-determined; parties may respond to conflict in a variety of ways ranging from unilateral methods to multilateral measures (Fogg, 1985).  Here we wish to articulate the components of a conceptual framework of multilateral conflict management, and examine the effects of a particular kind of conflict on this strategy.  The class of conflicts we wish to examine is that of intractable or enduring conflict, and the specific conflict management strategy is that of mediation.

International conflict can not be viewed as a unitary phenomenon.  They have different dimensions and show different degrees of amenability to conflict management.  Common strategies or approaches that might be applicable in some conflicts, may be quite inapplicable in others.  If we are to bridge the gap between the scholarly community and policy-makers, we should, at the very least, suggest prescriptions regarding the efficacy of different methods and strategies of conflict management, and how they may be used to affect the termination of enduring or intractable conflicts.  Learning how to deal with the most difficult and persistent conflicts can take us a long way toward understanding the dynamics of conflict management in all other conflicts.

Edward Azar (1986) first drew attention to the special features of what he termed protracted conflicts.  One of the defining characteristics of these conflicts was the difficulty of managing them peacefully.  Kriesberg (1993) talks about intractable conflicts which often sink into self-perpetuating violent antagonisms, and resit any technique of negotiation or mediation, or indeed other methods of peaceful management.  More recently the scholarly literature emphasized the fact that some conflicts are connected over time through high intensity, repeated cycles of violence, and general resistance to conflict management by invoking the concept of enduring conflicts (e.g. Goertz and Diehl, 1993).

Some analysts (e.g. Waltz, 1979) conceive of all interstate conflict as being essentially the result of one cause only (i.e. the structure of the system), and as exhibiting similar patterns irrespective of the actors involved or the life cycle of the conflict.  We believe that there are fundamental differences between interstate conflicts; differences that may be expressed in terms of causes, issues, participants, and the history, or life-cycle, of a conflict.  Each of these differences may have prescriptive consequences for international conflict management.  Little work, however, has been done on how these features of a conflict affect its termination.  Here we wish to examine conflict management in the context that poses the greatest intellectual and practical obstacle; that of intractable or enduring conflicts.

To talk about enduring or intractable conflict implies a concern with the longitudinal and dynamic aspects of a relationship.  At its simplest the concept is no more than a belated recognition  by scholars  that conflicts do not manifest themselves in a series of  single, unrelated episodes. Conflicts have a past (which may cast a heavy shadow on the parties), a present context, and presumably a future of some sort.   States involved in an intractable conflict learn to use coercive means, and are prepared to do so in a future conflict.  An intractable or enduring conflict is thus a process of competitive relationships that extend over a period of time, and involves hostile perceptions and occasional military actions.  The term itself acts as an integrating concept connoting a competitive social process where states become enmeshed in a web of negative interactions and hostile orientations.  This pattern is repeated, indeed worsened, every so often, with the actors involved unable to curb, or manage, the escalation of their relationships.

Gochman and Maoz (1984) first drew attention to the presence of these conflicts.  Their work demonstrated empirically how a relatively small number of states have been involved in a disproportionately large number of militarized disputes.  Furthermore, they showed that this was a pattern that was likely to repeat itself.  Gochman and Maoz define these conflict-prone states as 'enduring rivals', and their conflict as an 'enduring conflict'.

These enduring conflicts account for a large percentage of all militarized disputes - about 45% of all militarized disputes between 1816-1986 took place between such rivals (Bremmer, 1992; Goertz & Diehl, 1992).  Half the wars since 1816 occurred between enduring rivals.  The likelihood of a military dispute escalating to a full scale war is twice that of a non-enduring conflict.  Whatever enduring conflicts may be, they appear prima facie to be very different from other conflicts, and should be viewed, wherever possible, within a different theoretical context.

What we are in effect suggesting is that it makes sense to move from an episodic approach, and study conflicts, and conflict management, from a historical dimension, where prior interactions affect present behavior.  Shifting the unit of analysis from a single conflict to a long-term relationship, may have serious implications for the way we approach and manage conflicts.  We use the historical relationship of a conflict as one of our independent, contextual variables that may explain their course and outcome.1

Operationalizing Intractable/Enduring Conflicts

The concept of enduring conflict has been given considerable attention in recent studies (Diehl, 1985; Goertz and Diehl, 1992; Wayman, 1982; Geller, 1993).  The concept denotes a competitive relationship between two states over one or more issues, where the relationship is occasionally punctuated by the actual use or threat of force.  The temporal dimension is quite significant here, for enduring conflicts convey the notion of a long term phenomenon (usually a minimum of 15 years) during which hostile interactions are interwoven with peaceful periods and conflict management efforts.  Military confrontations and efforts to establish peaceful relations occur as concrete events punctuating the life cycle of the conflict.

An operational definition of an enduring conflict must, if it is to allow us to develop a universe of cases for empirical research, specify the number of actors, minimum duration, and level of hostility.  Although some discrepancy may be discerned amongst the operational definitions now extant in the literature, they all stipulate temporal boundaries, continuity, dispute activity and a dyadic participation.  Some like Wayman (1982) confine an enduring conflict to a ten year period and two or more militarized disputes; others like Diehl (1985) place the temporal parameters at fifteen years and three militarized disputes; and yet others like Huth and Russett 1993, suggest twenty years and at least five militarized disputes as the benchmark for an enduring rivalry.2 In line with these, we define an enduring rivalry as a conflictual relationship that lasts at least twenty years and manifests five or more militarized disputes, from the beginning to the end of a rivalry (Goertz & Diehl, 1993).  Using this definition we identify 14 enduring conflicts in our data set of 268 international conflicts in the 1945-1990 period.  The conflicts, and the overall number of conflict management efforts in each are identified below in Table 1.

Table 1
Enduring Conflicts and Number of Conflict Management Efforts
  Rivalry Year Conflict Management Efforts (N)
1.  China-USA 1949-1969 20
2. Greece-Turkey 1955-1988 91
3. Iraq-Iran 1953-1992 41
4. China-India 1950-1992 41
5. Afghanistan-Pakistan 1949-1992 18
6. Egypt-Israel 1948-1979 75
7. Argentina-Chile 1952-1984 22
8. Peru-Ecuador 1951-1986 10
9. Jordan-Israel 1948-1986 24
10. Syria-Israel  1948-1992 38
11. India-Pakistan 1947-1992 98
12. USSR-USA 1945-1986 18
13. China-USSR  1963-1988 60
14. Somalia-Ethiopia  1960-1988 19
Total number of conflict management efforts

List of enduring conflicts adapted from Geller (1993) and Huth and Russett (1993)

Our concern with these conflicts has significant implications for the question of how to terminate or manage them. States in an enduring conflict find themselves in a sustained, competitive and often hostile interaction in which the likelihood of  escalation is fairly high.  Such interaction patterns produce a negative interdependence of perceptions and behavior whereby more issues are staked together on the agenda, concrete issues become infused with intangible significance, the parameters of conflict expanded, perceptions become stereotypical, and rational cost-benefit calculations are replaced by a uniform desire to hurt the opponent and avoid any position or reputational losses (Levy, 1992).  In such an atmosphere the resort to violence can often be seen as the only way of dealing with the conflict.

Enduring of intractable conflicts are clearly different from other conflicts.  They are not unlike malignant social processes which enmesh states in a web of threats and escalating manoeuvres that can not be easily brought to an end.  Enduring conflicts parallel many of the characteristics of a zero-sum game.  They may be likened to a prolonged process of entrapment.  Whichever way we look at them, they clearly pose the greatest danger to the international system.  Protracted or enduring conflicts also provide numerous opportunities for conflict management.  A proliferation of actors, ranging from private individuals to numerous international organizations have an interest in settling or helping to de-escalate intractable conflicts. 

Factors Affecting International Conflict Management

The implications of an enduring rivalry for the study of conflict management are potentially numerous, though we have little systematic evidence that identifies trends or the effectiveness of different conflict management efforts.  Conflict management is widely understood to be an attempt by actors involved in conflict to reduce the level of hostility and generate some order in their relations.  Successful conflict management may lead to (a) a complete resolution of the issues in conflict (a change in behavior and attitudes), or as is more common in international relations, to (b) an acceptable settlement, ceasefire or partial agreement.

Either way, conflict management connotes a mechanism that is concerned with defining (a) a conflict as ended (at least temporarily), and (b) deciding on the distribution of values and resources.  To that extent conflict management is a rational and conscious decisional process whereby parties to a conflict, with or without the aid of outsiders, take steps to transform, deescalate or terminate a conflict in a mutually acceptable way.  This is the case with intractable or other conflicts.

The full range of methods and instruments that constitute conflict management is quite wide (see Fogg, 1985).  It varies from coercive measures, through legal processes to third party intervention and multilateral conferences.  For analytical purposes it is useful to divide all these methods to (a) unilateral methods (e.g. one-party threats), (b) bilateral methods (e.g. bargaining and negotiation, deterrence), and (c) multilateral methods (e.g. third party intervention).  Of particular interest would be the role of factors that affect the choice of a response, or an approach, to conflict, and how in particular certain conditions, such as being in an enduring conflict, and all that it implies, impact on the choice of conflict management method or its outcome.

Factors affecting the course of a conflict or the manner of its management are numerous.  They involve the manner of interdependence, type of actors, and kinds of issues.  For our purposes these factors are best conceptualized as (a) contextual factors, and (b) behavioral factors.  Let us examine each set in brief.

Contextual factors that affect international conflict management include i) the character of the international system, ii) the nature of a conflict, and iii) the internal characteristics of the states involved.  The character of the international system affects the expectations of states, and the strategies they may use to break out of a conflict (Miller, 1995).  Features such as polarity of the international system, patterns of alignments, and distribution of power capabilities are all associated with different approaches to conflict (see Gochman, 1993).  A bipolar international environment, for instance, is likely to be more stable than a multipolar system (Waltz, 1979) in encouraging a balance between caution and resolve in responding to conflicts.  The termination of intractable conflicts, can be explicitly linked to the nature of the international environment in which they occur (e.g. Goertz and Diehl, 1995).

The nature of a conflict or the characteristics of the issues that are its focus, are clearly crucial in determining how it is managed (Diehl, 1992).  Certain issues such as beliefs, core values and territorial integrity have a high saliency, and are apt to encourage decision makers to accept higher levels of costs.  This makes it much more difficult to manage such conflicts through traditional diplomatic methods (Snyder and Diesing, 1977).  Conflicts over salient issues are likely to be long-lasting and to entail the use of coercive methods as a way of reaching an outcome.  Other aspects such as the number of issues in conflict, the rigidity with which they are perceived, whether they relate to tangible interests (e.g. resource conflict) or intangible ones (e.g. conflict over values) may also affect both the duration as well as method of termination (Deutsch, 1994).

The third contextual dimension that affects conflict management is that of the internal characteristics of the actors involved.  This refers to how certain structural properties of states affect their predisposition to engage in coercive or other forms of conflict management.  The nature of the polity has attracted the most attention recently (Maoz and Russett, 1992;  Ember, Ember and Russett, 1992; Dixon, 1993).  Here the argument is that democratic states are more inclined to use peaceful methods of conflict management (because of internal norms, liberal experience or electoral constraints), whereas non-democratic states are more likely to utilize coercive methods of management.

Another factor here relates to the power capabilities of states.  Although there is not much empirical evidence to suggest a strong relationship, power capabilities can be linked to different conflict management behavior (e.g. a conflict between two equally strong countries may be prolonged because both have the material and human resources to carry on, and the willingness to tolerate high costs).  All these contextual factors affect directly the disposition to engage in different forms of conflict management, and how a conflict will terminate.

The effects of some contextual factors on the origin, character and evolution of a conflict has been documented quite extensively (see Stoll, 1993 for a review).  Some studies have examined more specifically their effect on conflict management.  A number of propositions linking for instance the duration, intensity, fatalities and issue prominence to effective mediations (Bercovitch, 1989; Bercovitch & Langley, 1993) received considerable theoretical and empirical support.  Other studies linked the parties’ internal characteristics (Gregory, 1994) or power capabilities between them (Bercovitch, 1985) to different forms of conflict management by third parties.

But what of the effect on conflict management of the second dimension, that comprising behavioral elements?  What is the relevance of past interactions and how does previous behavior affect current conflict management?  It is equally plausible to argue that experience conflict experience may dampen, or heighten, parties’ disposition to rely on a particular method of conflict management.  When heavy losses had been experienced during previous conflict behavior, lessons may be drawn by each state regarding the efficacy of coercion as a way of dealing with conflict.  If, however, coercive methods were successful in achieving basic objectives in the past, there is good reason to believe that decision makers may find it an attractive option in their present conflict.

States in an enduring conflict are forced to consider  whether to escalate a conflict or not, which conflict management method to use, and whether or not to reciprocate in kind?  What are the consequences for conflict management of being in a “serial confrontation”? (Thompson, 1995).  Does prolonged experience of conflict elicit a preference for a particular method of conflict management, or does this experience produce so much ‘distortion’, stress and cognitive rigidity, that the states involved learn little from their past experience, and use the same old methods, repeated over time, unproductively?  This is the pattern of relationship that we wish to examine.

The literature on the termination or management of enduring conflict is largely notable for its brevity and indirectness.  Deutsch (1973; 1994) claims that states involved in a negative interdependence, as states in an enduring conflict undoubtedly are, tend to use coercion to manage their conflicts.  Leng (1983) demonstrated empirically that states in repeated conflicts develop a power orientation and use increasingly more coercive methods of dealing with their conflict with each successive flare up.  Neither the attitudes, nor the conflict management behavior of enduring states are presumed to change much.  Enduring conflicts appear to take a life of their own. Another body of literature, however, suggests that not only do states learn, but under certain conditions they can forget their earlier hostile interactions and embrace a cooperative orientation (Mor & Maoz, 1996).

What is the impact of continued interaction as opponents on conflict management?  Does intractability cause states to rely mostly on coercive strategies that reinforce existing interactions and beliefs, or is there some kind of learning that encourages even the most violent prone nations to use a variety of instruments to settle their conflicts?  It is certainly worth exploring how the experience of being in an intractable conflict affects peace-making efforts at the global level.

To investigate this question we present a framework (see Figure 1 below) that incorporates the contextual and behavioral factors discussed above.  These factors affect the nature of conflict management - interpersonally or internationally.  We divide conflict management activities into two broad categories; violent (i.e. force, coercion) and non-violent (e.g. negotiation, mediation).  Initially we treat conflict management as the dependent variable to examine how often states in intractable and non-intractable conflicts use management strategies.  Then, we measure the short-term consequences of conflict management, and here our dependent variable is conflict management outcomes, and our concern is with determining whether or not there is a relationship between kinds of conflicts and outcomes.  These can be of two kinds; success or failure.  Success is conceptualized as conflict management that reduces the level of violence and hostility (at least in the short term), and failure is defined as conflict management activity that has had no effect on the basic level of conflict.

Figure 1

A Framework for Analysing International Conflict Management

  A Framework for Analysing International Conflict Management
For purposes of conceptual clarity we wish to specify three hypotheses that stipulate plausible relationships between the intractability of a conflict and the outcome of conflict management efforts;

H(1)  Conflict management will be less successful the more intractable the conflict.  Intractable conflicts produce over-reliance on negative acts, these in turn increase hostility and reduce the chances of a successful outcome.

H(2)   When controlling for the intractability of conflict, the most effective strategy by a third party or mediator is a directive strategy.  A strong, active mediation strategy can have more of an impact on the rivals involved than less directive strategies.

H(3)   Once a successful outcome has been achieved in an intractable conflict, there is a higher likelihood that the parties involved will adhere to its provisions for a long period.  The difficulties of achieving such outcomes are such that once achieved, the parties may experience war-weariness and be too well aware of the costs of their conflict, to renege on their agreement.

Research Design

In order to test the hypotheses outlined above we use original data on conflict management activities in the post World War II period. These data consists of nearly 1900 cases of distinct conflict management attempts in international disputes since 1945 (Bercovitch & Langley, 1993). The emphasis of the data is on attributes of conflict management, and as such they detail, amongst others, the method and strategy undertaken to resolve disputes, the type of outcome reached, if any, and the durability of successful outcomes. For analytical purposes we created a  subcategory within this data set that identifies those disputants which are part of an enduring or intractable conflict (Goertz and Diehl, 1993; Huth and Russett, 1993; Geller, 1993).

Our testing procedures involved a two-pronged approach. First we use two separate logit models to test for the effect of characteristics of a conflict and the parties on the successful management of the conflict. Of central concern here is the effect of the historical dimension on the probability of successful conflict management. The first model examines the effects of contextual and behavioral variables on the settlement of disputes under different strategies of conflict management; the second narrows the focus somewhat and looks at the effects of these attributes on outcomes when mediation is the chosen form of conflict management. Based on our theoretical argument we posit that the historical context is a significant factor affecting the success of conflict management.  Parties in enduring conflicts are less likely to settle their disputes successfully than parties involved in a conflict without such a violent history. As a second step we isolated those instances of successful conflict management and tested the null hypothesis;-- that the existence of a rivalry has no impact on the durability of the outcome. Almost by definition it seems that parties to enduring conflicts are unable to achieve and implement long term negotiated settlements.  However, should they reach such a settlement, there is good reason to believe it will last for quite a while.

A critical issue, at this juncture, is just what we mean by "successful outcomes", "settlements", and the "resolution of conflicts". Operationally we define a successful outcome as one in which the observed behavior following a conflict management effort resulted in a ceasefire, a partial, or a full settlement of the dispute. Conflict resolution implies that the underlying issues, attitudes and perceptions have been addressed so that the parties are no longer in a conflictual relationship. Our data can not measure perceptual changes, nor do we believe that individual conflict management attempts are likely to resolve intractable conflicts. Settlement, on the other hand, pertains to the successful mangement of hostilities in a specific dispute (Burton, 1990).  Conceived of in this manner it is neither 'a given' nor tautological to argue that enduring rivals will be less successful at utilizing single conflict management efforts to settle disputes than non-rivals. In fact, because of the interactive nature of the relationship between rivals, some might suggest that under certain conditions short term settlements could be more common among participants in intractable conflicts (Axelrod, 1984).

As outlined in our theoretical discussion we frame the conflict management process in terms of contextual and behavioral factors; in this empirical component we control for these various factors as follows: a) behavioral variables include the existence of a rivalry, the strategy of intervention, and the intensity of the conflict; and b) contextual variables incorporate the power relationship between actors, and the tangibility of the issues involved. Operational criteria can be found in Bercovitch and Langley (1993), but briefly:

  1. An enduring rivalry is coded dichotomously and operationalized in terms of the criteria outlined by Goertz and Diehl (1993) and developed under the auspices of the Correlates of War Project.  An enduring rivalry involves two states that have had at least 5 militarized disputes over a 20 year period without more than a 10 year gap between any two disputes.  The cases that meet these criteria are consistent with those identified by Geller (1993) when constrained by our limit of a 1945 start date.
  2. Power relationship is operationalized in terms of the disparity in power between actors A and B. An indicator of power is constructed using the Cox-Jacobsen scaling procedure (1973).  Five indicators of state "power" -- GNP, military spending, per capita GNP, territorial size, and population -- were computed to form a power index of each state. The disparity in power between actors is the absolute value of the difference between their national scores on the power index.
  3. Tangibility of issues at stake is coded dichotomously and derived from the six scale nominal indicator developed by Bercovitch. Of the six types of issues in conflict -- territory, ideology, security, independence, resources, and "others" -- territory, security and resources were coded as tangible, the other issues as intangible.
  4. Intensity of the conflict is operationalized here as a continuous variable that measures the number of fatalities per month.
  5. The conflict mangement method reflects the form adopted by the disputants in their efforts to settle the dispute. Two methods were identified and systematically coded by us; mediation and negotiation. A dummy variable was created for the existence of either method.
  6. When mediation was adopted as the method for managing the conflict, three different strategies were identified and coded: communicative/facilitation, procedural, and directive. Conceptually a directive strategy is the most intrusive approach by the mediator; communicative the least. A dummy variable was created for the existence of each specific mediation strategy.

The results of our analysis point to a number of interesting patterns evident in the management of enduring and non-enduring conflicts. Two of these results allow us to draw descriptive inferences from the data; others have greater implications for understanding causal processes. In general what we find quite conclusively is that states involved in a protracted conflict do manage their disputes differently than other conflictual dyads.  The success of any conflict management efforts appears to be substantially influenced by the historical patterns of persistent conflictual interactions.  This lends considerable support to the notion that enduring rivals constitute a distinct category of actors in our understanding of international conflict and conflict management. We break down the discussion of our analysis into two distinct components.

Descriptive analysis

In the descriptive realm we find first that the maximum number of individual conflict management attempts within enduring conflicts is 98; the minimum is seven. The distribution of these data are such that the mean number of conflict management attempts is 52 with a standard deviation of 28. Among non-enduring dyads there is a maximum of 108 cases and a minimum of one; the mean however is just over 27 cases, with a standard deviation of 28. In the former category there are 575 cases; in the latter 1314. From these data we can see that on average enduring rivals use nearly twice as many conflict management attempts -- as we hypothesized.  We can also see that dyads that are not engaged in an enduring conflict also seem to require numerous attempts to manage their own conflicts.


Table 2
Descriptive Statistics on Conflict Management Attempts
Category No Minimum Max Mean Standard Deviation
Enduring Rival 575 7 98 52 28


1314 1 108 27 28
Total no. of conflict management attempts 1889        

Multivariate analysis

To test for the effect of the history of the conflict within a broader context that can control for factors that have been linked to the outcome of mediation, we have specified two multivariate logit models of the conditions contributing to mediation successes. Success for these purposes was operationalized in terms of the outcome of mediation efforts in which at minimum a ceasefire was secured, or at the other end of the scale, a full or partial settlement of the dispute was achieved. We specify two models from which these tests are performed. The first accounts for the conditions associated with successful conflict management attempts; the second disaggregates a specific type of conflict management -- mediation -- into the different approaches adopted by mediators. The functional form of the models are as follows:

Y1= a + X1 + X2 + X3 + X4 + X5 + e


Y1= a + X1 + X2 + X3 + X4 + X6 + X7 + e


Y1 = Success of Management (0,1)

X1 = Enduring Rivalry (1 if part of enduring dyad; zero otherwise)

X2  = Power Disparity (absolute value of disparity between power of      

      actor A minus power of actor B; range 0-34)

X3 = Tangibility of Issue (1 if tangible; zero otherwise)

X4 = Intensity of Conflict (fatalities/month)

X5 = Management Type (1=mediation; zero=negotiation)

X6 = Directive Strategy (dummy, 1 if directive; zero otherwise)

X7 = Procedural Strategy (dummy, 1 if procedural; zero otherwise)

These two models reflect concerns over the conditions most conducive to successful conflict management, with Model 1 emphasizing, inter alia, the effect of different approaches to conflict management and Model 2 the different strategies that are adopted by mediators.

Findings and Discussion

Tables 3, 4 and 5 present the results of our logit analyses and the transformation of these parameter estimates into estimates of the probability of a successful outcome, holding all other contributing factors constant. Because of the dichotomous nature of the outcome variable, the interpretation of the parameters associated with the logit, however, is not quite straightforward. The parameter estimates are transformed into estimates of probability that a given conflict management effort will be successful.  A hypothetical “base conflict” is usual as a benchmark from which the independent effects of the explanatory variables can be assessed.

In each instance the components of our theoretical argument are generally supported by the data, an exception being the role played by issue tangibility. All are statistically robust and substantively meaningful, again with the exception of issue tangibility. The contextual variables of the power disparity between combatants and the protracted nature of the conflict are associated with a decreasing probability of a successful outcome in conflict management. Behavioral variables, likewise, also bear a strong relationship to the outcome of management efforts. The more intense the conflict, for example, the less likely it is that any specific conflict management attempt will succeed.

The particular approach to conflict management appears to influence the likely outcome of the management effort. When controlling for other factors, direct negotiation will increase the probability of a successful settlement over mediation efforts. Moreover, when a mediation strategy is adopted, the particular mediation strategy affects the likely outcome, with a procedural strategy having the greatest probability of success, followed by a directive and then a communicative strategy. As mentioned earlier, however, a direct interpretation of these coefficients is difficult without transforming them into an expression of the change in the probability of moving to a successful settlement given a change in the independent variables. Table 4 presents these transformations, using as the baseline a conflict: a) not associated with an enduring rival, b) one waged over intangible issues (such as ideology), c) between relatively equally capable actors, and d) involved in a low intensity conflict. The type of management strategy for the base in Model 1 is mediation, while in Model 2 the base for the mediation strategy is communication-facilitation.

Table 3
Results for Logit Regression on the Success or Failure of Management Attempt
Variable Model 1 Model 2
Enduring -.47* -.68*
  (.13) (.17)
Power Disparity -.05* -.05*
  (.009) (.012)
Issue Tangibility .03 .018
  (.11)  (.14)
Dispute Intensity -.00003* -.00008*
  (.00001) (.00002)
Negotiation .32*  
Directive Strategy   .49*
Procedural Strategy    .74*
Constant .05 -.13
  (.10) (.14)


Model 1:   Model 2:
Log-Likelihood Function = -1033.9 Log-Likelihood Function = -663.0
Log-Likelihood (0) = -1058.1 Log-Likelihood (0) = -699.4
Likelihood Ratio Test = 48.4; 5 d.f. Likelihood Ratio Test = 72.8; 6 d.f.

*p < .05; numbers in () are standard errors

Here we see, for example, the probability of a successful settlement under the base conditions in Model 1 is 50%, but the existence of an enduring rivalry, holding all else constant at the base conditions, reduces the probability of success of the mediation attempt by 12% (Table 4). In Model 2, where we control for the specific approach to mediation, the existence of an enduring conflict decreases the probability of a successful settlement by 17% to 33% (Table 5). Both of these results are consistent with our argument regarding the negative effect of intractability on conflict management. Interestingly, and counter to our intuitive thoughts, negotiation has a significantly higher probability of success than mediation within enduring rivalries. Very intense conflicts and those with a large disparity in capabilities between actors have quite low prospects for the successful settlement of disputes (Model 1: 8% and 16%, respectively; and in Model 2: nil and 16%).

Table 4
Individual Effects of Changing Conditions for Conflict Management On the Probability of Success
Model 1
Base Prob. of Success Change of Prob. Success 
Low intensity    
No power disparity 50%  
From: Base      
To: Enduring Conflict*   38% -12%
From: Base    
To: Negotiation* 58% 8%
From: Base      
To: High intensity .08 -42%
From: Base      
To: Tangible .50 0%
From: Base      
To: High Disparity*  .16 -34%


When looking at those cases in which mediation only was employed, the particular strategy has a strong impact on the likely success of this form of conflict management.  At the base conditions, where a communicative strategy is used, there is again a 50% likelihood of a successful settlement. A directive strategy increases the odds of a successful outcome by 12% to 62%, while a procedural approach has a 69% chance of success. But even that strategy has only a 51% chance of success when a conflict is intractable between enduring rivals.

Since one of our central concerns here is the effects of enduring conflicts on conflict management outcomes, we push the analysis one step further. Table 6 presents the results of a bivariate exploration of the durability of a settlement under conditions associated with rivalries and non-rivalries.  The intuitive perception would be that rivalries are rivalries because the antagonists can neither settle disputes nor abide by the terms of settlements if and when these are achieved.  However, once a successful outcome has been achieved, the likelihood of that settlement holding for an extended period of time increases when the parties are part of an enduring conflict. Table 6 breaks down the durability of all successful management efforts into periods of less than one month, up to one month but less than two months, and two months or longer. The distribution of these data are such that it becomes clear that enduring rivals are considerably more likely to abide by the terms of any agreements than are non-rivals. For example, non-rivals are about equally likely to have an outcome last for less than a month as they are to have one last at least two months (40% vs 46%), while enduring rivals are four times more likely to have a successful outcome hold for at least two months as they are to have one hold for a very short duration (17% vs 70%). This is an unexpected result and largely inconsistent with the argument that enduring conflicts generally operate as feedback mechanisms, with negative interactions feeding future hostilities.

Table 5
Individual Effects of Changing Conditions for Conflict Management On the Probability of Success
Model 2
Base Prob. of Success Change of Prob. Success 
Low intensity    
Intangible Issues    
No power disparity    
Communication 50%  
From: Base      
To: Enduring Conflict*   33% -17%
From: Base    
To: High intensity 0% -50%
From: Base      
To: Tangible Issues 49 -1%
From: Base      
To: High Power Disparity 16 -34%
From: Base      
To: Directive Strategy 62%  12%
From: Base      
To: Procedural Strategy 69% 19%

* p < .05

At first blush it might seem that a two month settlement is hardly a durable outcome, and that particularly with enduring rivals this should be no surprise. However two points should be raised to address this issue: a) the coding of the data did not permit an open-ended duration for the outcome of mediation efforts, presumably leaving many of the agreements in the "two months or longer" category remaining in force for considerably longer periods of time, and b) the durability we examine refers to the settlement of a specific dispute and set of issues, not the resolution of the conflict itself.  A negotiated ceasefire that lasts for two months or more may be quite an achievement for some disputants (e.g. Bosnia comes to mind here). The obvious expectation is that if it can hold for two months then there is a real possibility that it will hold for longer and other issues can then be addressed.

Table 6
Outcome Durability in Enduring and Non-Enduring Conflicts
0-3 weeks 
4-7 weeks  
8+ weeks
Row total
Column Total
Chi Sq
Likelihood Ratio

The problem of censored data reflected in the open-ended coding procedure has a corallary in the literature on international conflict. There is some evidence that the longer a conflict has persisted, the longer it can be expected to last (Vuchinich and Teachman, 1993). And although the idea of duration dependence is not without counter-evidence or its critics (Bennett and Stam, 1996), the notion that a settlement which lasts for two months has a reasonable chance of persiting even longer, would seem to be reasonably well grounded. Utility theory, for example, might suggest that until the costs of the status quo or benefits from moving off of this equilibrium are sufficiently large, then the status quo should hold.

Overall what emerges from the analysis is a sense that the management of enduring conflicts is made difficult largely because of the frequency and duration of hostile interactions between the parties. In short, those involved in intractable conflicts not only appear to have a difficult time resolving the underlying issues that fuel their antagonisms, but they also have a more difficult time successfully settling their disputes. This suggests, inter alia, that the negative interactions resulting from the conflict do indeed operate as some sort of a feedback mechanism, which in turn suggests that the disputants are more likely to rely on coercive means to resolve underlying issues. This finding seems consistent with those of Goertz and Diehl (1992; 1993; see also Gochman and Maoz, 1984) who demonstrate that enduring rivals account for a considerable amount of the violence within the international system. Given the extent of this international violence, one might counsel policymakers to focus on the strategy with which they try to settle disputes in these long-running conflicts.

These results, however, are richer than the simple inference that under some contextual conditions certain conflicts remain protracted because the parties cannot manage their disputes successfully. Those conflict management attempts that do result in a settlement are considerably more likely to have the agreements upheld when the antagonists have a long history of conflict. This might suggest that the effect of prior hostile relationships is not so straightforward, and in fact, the successful management of a conflict and the likelihood of those management efforts to endure appear to operate by entirely different dynamics. This differing impact of enduring conflict on the ability to successfully settle a dispute, and ultimately have that outcome hold, may be tied to the learning that must take place through repeated interactions with the same party (Mor & Maoz, 1996; Leng, 1983). The negative effects of previous hostilities makes further coercion the dominant strategy for managing the conflict. But coercion is costly, and successful conflict management -- as difficult as that may be -- makes evident the virtues of cooperative strategies for conflict management, and hence successful outcomes tend to be more lasting.


Much of the literature on international conflict management has been hampered by the search for generic principles, and the assumption that the crises and disputes which characterize a conflict relationship are independent of one another.  Here we have sought to work within an approach that distinguishes between conflicts on the basis of their intractability and disputatiousness and identifies a category of conflicts--enduring or intractable conflicts--as very different from other conflicts.  We push the analysis further by asking whether differences in the historical experience of states will also be expressed in the way such states approach and manage their conflicts.  The search for effective conflict management principles should be predicated upon such an examination.

Are rivalry characteristics, so crucial in the onset and evolution of conflicts, important in the practice of conflict management?  Do enduring conflicts really deserve separate treatment?  Do they manage their hostilities differently?  This paper represents the first attempt to explore the theoretical and empirical implications of those questions.  Having identified the characteristics and consequences of enduring rivalries, the paper treats conflict management as the dependent variable to answer this question.  The behavioral attributes of enduring rivals clearly make a change to the practice of conflict management.  The data analysis suggests that the existence of intractability decreases the probability of successful conflict management.  A conflict punctuated by instances of militarized hostility and cooperation attracts a more varied range of conflict management strategies than other conflicts.  Interestingly, enduring rivals do not attract or welcome the diplomatic efforts of outsiders who may wish to mediate.  Instead, they prefer to manage their relationship through negotiation.  Remarkably, though, we find that when a conflict management method (or strategy) has been successful, the outcome lasts far longer than similar outcomes in other conflicts.

The exploratory analysis undertaken in this paper suggests that a rivalry relationship offers a useful perspective for looking at international conflicts and interpreting some aspects of their management.  That relationship, appropriately conceptualized and operationalized, may yet prove an invaluable focus for analyzing the dynamic processes that are embedded in a continuous and conflictual interaction. Reliable rivalry and conflict management data sets have now been constructed.  It is surely time their complex interdependence was more fully explored.


1 Traditionally only systemic, national or behavioral attributes, not historical ones, are analyzed to study the onset, escalation and management of international conflicts.

2 Not everyone considers the identification of rivalries along these attributes.  For a critique of the approach, and a different focus, see Thompson (1995).


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