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International Journal on Responsibility

Abstract

This study argues that for international conflict, and for many conflict situations within a nation, the most pragmatic, responsible option is neither coercive nor evasive. It proposes an alternative strategy, dubbed courtship, that is neither. By coercion is understood violence or any other form of dominant control or forcing the enemy against their will, including many methods often described as nonviolent such as economic sanctions, majority rule, and the rule of law. By evasion is understood appeasement, deception, self-exile, or any attempt to run away, cover up one’s needs, or hide from the aggressor. The study introduces healthy community as a refinement of Martin Luther King Jr’s beloved community. A healthy community is founded on a widespread public commitment whereby no party attempts to evade conflict, and no party attempts to control or coerce others—no one exercises control of the social situation. In a healthy community there is respectful longstanding healthy confrontation between parties that see the world differently and come to different moral and ethical conclusions. The parties’ commitment to renounce control provides safety for negotiation. Within a healthy community, justice is the practical experience that negotiation with one’s opponent produces positive results. The epistemological claim is made that knowledge can only grow through the friction and tension arising from the diverse points of view within a healthy community. Courtship is then introduced as a non coercive unilateral strategy designed to bring an enemy into healthy community. To respond to the obvious objection (“If you won’t use coercion or evasion, won’t your enemy just wipe you out?”) the study discusses the relative success of courtship, coercion and evasion. Criteria are given for deciding when to use courtship, and when to trust to coercion or evasion. An analysis of the American civil rights movement of the 1960s is given using the lens of courtship. Courtship is distinguished from coercive nonviolence, principled nonviolence, and diplomacy. Courtship is our opportunity, it is within our agency, it is our responsibility.

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