Summary: Reconciliation as Realpolitik

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from Identity, Morality and Threat: Studies in Violent Conflict,

edited by Daniel Rothbart and Karyna Korostelina

Montville begins “any conflict resolution strategy that does not address the psychological needs of the victims and victimizers can only have a superficial effect on the resolution.” He contends the only practical approach to intractable conflicts is one that aims for the reconciliation of peoples and nations.

Conflict parties should be led to accept moral responsibility for their behavior. Under these circumstances a sense of justice will emerge among those who have suffered, and the possibility for real peace will appear too. It is this link between justice and peace, documented thoroughly in human psychology, that continues to elude professional diplomacy and statecraft. The latter cling to a scientifically unjustifiable concept of power politics and cynicism, the traditional realpolitik.

Theorists and practitioners of conflict resolution need to understand the depth of hurt of the peoples they propose to help. Proceeding with modesty, care, professional skill and commitment to the analysis of the historic and psychodynamic dimensions of what is essentially a task in healing in the relationships between the groups and nations in conflict. This chapter attempts to outline the dimensions of that task, with sections on: 1) Acknowledgement and justice in conflict resolution theories 2) Victimhood in history 3) Taking a walk through history 4) Recruiting Participants 5) and the psychodynamic workshop. Montville uses Serbia, Northern Ireland and Poland/Russia as examples of this approach.

Practitioners will be approached in conflict settings by those seeking to escape past and present tragedies. The task then is to respect the suffering of conflict parties by learning what must be learned and helping them to walk through the processes necessary to come to terms with their past. If practitioners go about their work with a compassion informed by profound knowledge and skill, they can help people and nations to heal and get on with their future.