Despite its being widely discussed in academia and the policy world, there is no consensus about the definition of protracted conflicts. There are two primary approaches to understanding and classifying protracted conflicts. One focuses on the conflict issues and the other focuses on conflict dynamics.

Rationalist Approach to Protracted Conflicts

The rationalist approach to understanding protracted or intractable conflicts, as they are often termed, is squarely entrenched in the international relations and comparative politics fields and focuses primarily on the issues of the conflict. Rationalist approaches generally assert that individuals, groups, and countries make decisions in their own rational self-interest based on the information available to them, considering both the costs and benefits of decisions and actions. What constitutes the content of that self-interest is often ...

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