Tag Archives: Movements

Make Nice or Make War

When it comes to advocating for social change, some people prefer to Make Nice while others prefer to Make War. The Make Nice people tend to look for common ground upon which compromise can be found to achieve incremental changes. The Make War people are willing to take a confrontational stance in order to achieve more profound change more quickly.

Although these two camps of advocates are on the same side of their mutual issues, they incessantly squabble over tactics. They undermine each others efforts, effectively becoming adversaries when they should be allies. Their infighting sometimes causes more harm to their shared cause than their actual adversaries do.

The Make Nice folks accuse their Make War allies of being radical and unrealistic. They argue that a confrontational approach undermines their more serious and responsible efforts to reach compromise and achieve incremental change.

The Make War folks lament that their Make Nice allies are too timid and conciliatory. They argue that settling for minor concessions that do not achieve a minimal threshold does more damage than holding out for real meaningful change.

Much of this infighting is really over bargaining tactics. Both camps would love to get as much as they can. But the Make Nice folks insist that you catch more flies with honey and that you should ask for a fair and reasonable price and trust the other side to be reasonable. They fear that if they ask for too much the other party will just walk away and you’ll end up with nothing.

The Make War folks start with the assumption that the other side does not wish to be reasonable and will only give up what they are forced to give up. They feel that rather than asking nicely for $10 and getting only $2, a good haggler demands $100 and reluctantly settles for $20. They fear that if your demands are too modest you’ll end up settling for far too little.

We see these dynamics play out in almost every arena. We watched this conflict rage during the racial struggles of the 60’s. We see it today in the Presidential race with the Make War Bernie camp pushing for “aspirational” change while the Make Nice Hillary camp advocates for “incremental” change. We see this in the fight for gun control with Make War crowd fighting for sweeping gun restrictions while the Make Nice camp advocates for  “sensible” regulations. We see this in the secular movement with Make Nice secularists calling for “respect and cooperation” with religious groups while Make War atheists condemn religion more strongly.

In any particular situation, one or the other approach may be a better strategy but its hard to know which even in hindsight. What is certain in my mind at least is that the best results are achieved when these two camps work together rather than at cross-purposes.

In almost every movement, the Make Nice camps tend to dismiss and discredit their own Make War camps. This is unfortunate because it would be much smarter to use the Make War folks as bad cops in their persuasive effort in order to achieve far greater incremental change than would be possible without the pressure of their more radical fringe. Rather than delegitimize their Make War militants, the Make Nice camp should support them and use them. Yes, they should argue, that used car is really worth $10,000 but if you work with me I’ll convince my stubborn branch manager to let it go for $1,500.

GoodCopBadCopMake Nice incremental advocates, don’t discredit your Make War brethren and thereby waste the leverage they afford you. Appreciate that they are an asset not a liability and use them to your advantage. Radicals, appreciate that your role is bad cop and pursue it with relish but also appreciate that it ultimately takes Make Nice folks to close the deal. When a better compromise is achieved then either camp could have negotiated alone, realize that it was only possible because both camps were strong and worked with each other rather than against each other.