When destructive conflicts persist for long periods of time and resist every attempt to resolve them constructively, they can appear to take on a life of their own. We label these intractable conflicts. They can occur between individuals (as in prolonged marital disputes) and within or between groups (as evidenced in the antiabortion/pro-choice conflict) or nations. Over time, they tend to attract the involvement of many parties, become increasingly complicated, and give rise to a threat to basic human needs or values. Typically they result in negative outcomes for the parties involved, ranging from mutual alienation and contempt to atrocities such as murder, rape, and genocide.
Today, of the ...