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The Curve of Conflict

In his book, Lund explains how the curve is derived: "The course of disputes that become violent conflicts is traced in relation to two dimensions: the intensity of conflict (the vertical axis) and the duration of conflict (the horizontal axis)."

Curve of Conflict diagram

Lund continues,

The line that forms an arc from left to right across the diagram portrays the course of a conflict as it rises and falls in intensity over time. Its smoothly curving bell shape is oversimplified to characterize an 'ideal type' life history. As suggested by the arrows that deviate from the line, the course of actual conflicts can exhibit many different long and short life-history trajectories, thresholds, reversals, and durations. Even conflicts that have abated can re-escalate. Nevertheless, the model has heuristic value in allowing us to make certain useful distinctions among the conflict management interventions that relate to different levels of intensity.

The column on the left describes relations between parties to the dispute and is divided into various phases of peace or conflict, Durable Peace, Stable Peace, Unstable Peace, Crisis, and War—with lower intensity phases characterized by what Lund calls interactive, mutually accommodative behavior, such as debates and negotiations and higher intensity phases characterized by unilateral, coercive behavior, such as ultimatums, sanctions and physical force. The best way to understand the model is to take a close look at each of these phases.

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