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Article

The Conduct and Consequences of War  

Alyssa K. Prorok and Paul K. Huth

The academic study of warfare has expanded considerably over the past 15 years. Whereas research used to focus almost exclusively on the onset of interstate war, more recent scholarship has shifted the focus from wars between states to civil conflict, and from war onset to questions of how combatants wage and terminate war. Questioned as well are the longer-term consequences of warfare for countries and their populations. Scholarship has also shifted away from country-conflict-year units of analysis to micro-level studies that are attentive to individual-level motives and explanations of spatial variation in wartime behavior by civilians and combatants within a country or armed conflict. Today, research focuses on variations in how states and rebel groups wage war, particularly regarding when and how wars expand, whether combatants comply with the laws of war, when and why conflicts terminate, and whether conflicts end with a clear military victory or with a political settlement through negotiations. Recent research also recognizes that strategic behavior continues into the post-conflict period, with important implications for the stability of the post-conflict peace. Finally, the consequences of warfare are wide-ranging and complex, affecting everything from political stability to public health, often long after the fighting stops.

Article

Wars for Ethnic or Nationalist Supremacy  

Kristin P. Johnson and Ashlea Rundlett

Conflicts that occur along ethnic or nationalist lines are often the most protracted, violent, and difficult to resolve in the long term. Civil wars are often divided into two distinct types: ethnic/religious wars (identity), and revolutionary wars (nonidentity). The distinction between these conflict types is based on whether cleavages within a society occur along ethnic lines or along lines that cut across ethnic divisions and are focused on issues including class, ideology, or seeking significant policy orientation of change. The most significant theoretical and empirical contributions to the understanding of ethnic conflicts in recent years come from the disaggregation of civil wars focusing on micro- and group-level dynamics. This disaggregation supports theoretical advancement and a departure from using macro-level data with micro-level mechanisms supports transition from a monadic to dyadic study of ethnic conflict, and supports examination of potential causal mechanisms of ethnic violence. Scholarly traditions and theoretical approaches explaining identity mobilization along ethnic or nationalist lines, the contributing factors that explain the transition from mobilization to the exercise of political violence, the duration of identity-based conflicts, and the long-term prospects for settlement of the conflict have enjoyed a proliferation of studies using newly available data featuring subnational units. These include explanations of conflicts based in sociological foundations focused on the formation and maintenance of identity, structural explanations for internal conflict focus on the capacity of the state and the distribution of political authority within a political system, and the opportunity for rebellion.

Article

The Formation and Success of Peace Agreements in Civil Wars  

Gary Uzonyi

Peace agreements are becoming a more common outcome of civil wars in the post–Cold War era. Yet, scholars tend to view this outcome as less stable than military victory. For this reason, much research seeks to explain why some peace agreements remain robust while others fail. From this literature, it is clear that the reason why an agreement is formed greatly influences whether it will succeed. There are four key findings regarding whether an agreement succeeds. First, power-sharing, especially political power-sharing, helps increase the robustness of agreements. Second, provisions that allow for the reporting and verification of compliance with the agreement decrease chances the agreement will fail. Third, various actors—including elites, fighters, and the broader population—must be compensated to some degree to increase the chances that no group seeks to break the agreement in the future. Last, the sequence and steps through which the agreement is implemented help determine whether peace persists following the negotiated settlement.

Article

Civilian Victimization During Conflict  

Alexander B. Downes and Stephen Rangazas

Since the end of the Cold War, scholars have increasingly sought to explain the causes of civilian victimization—the intentional use of violence against noncombatants—during armed conflict. The question of the effects and effectiveness of violence against civilians, in contrast, has received less scholarly attention. One strand of research examines the impact of wartime civilian victimization on postconflict political behavior and outcomes. A second strand investigates the effectiveness of violence during the war itself. The principal question this literature asks is: Does civilian victimization “work”? Put more precisely, can intentionally targeting noncombatants help belligerents achieve their wartime objectives, whatever those might be? Civilian victimization takes different forms and serves different purposes in different kinds of conflicts; scholarship on its effectiveness is thus divided into work on irregular (predominantly intrastate) wars versus conventional (predominantly, but not exclusively, interstate) wars. No matter what its particular form or in which type of conflict it is used, however, civilian victimization tends to follow two broad logics: coercive and eliminationist. Most scholarship on irregular wars examines the effectiveness of coercive victimization, whereas studies of conventional war look at the efficacy of both. For example, a key debate in the literature on civilian victimization in irregular wars concerns whether selective or indiscriminate violence is more effective at deterring civilians from shifting their allegiances to the adversary. A broad consensus holds that violence is effective only when selective, but new studies have found that indiscriminate violence can also work under certain circumstances. Similarly, there is broad agreement (with some notable exceptions) in the literature on conventional war that coercive civilian victimization—which is almost by definition indiscriminate—is ineffective. In contrast, scholars have yet to assess systematically the effectiveness of eliminationist victimization in conventional war.

Article

United Nations Peacekeeping and Civil Conflict  

Timothy J. A. Passmore

UN peacekeeping serves as the foremost international tool for conflict intervention and peace management. Since the Cold War, these efforts have almost exclusively targeted conflicts within, rather than between, states. Where traditional peacekeeping missions sought to separate combatants and monitor peace processes across state borders, modern peacekeeping in civil wars involves a range of tasks from intervening directly in active conflicts to rebuilding political institutions and societies after the fighting ends. To accommodate this substantial change, peacekeeping operations have grown in number, size, and scope of mandate. The increasing presence and changing nature of peacekeeping has sparked great interest in understanding when and how peacekeeping is used and how effective it is in delivering and sustaining peace. Significant advances in peacekeeping data collection have allowed for a more rigorous investigation of the phenomenon, including differentiation in the objectives, tasks, and structure of a mission as well as disaggregation of the activities and impact of peacekeepers’ presence across time and space. Researchers are particularly interested in understanding the adaption of peacekeeping to the unique challenges of the civil war setting, such as intervention in active conflicts, the greater involvement and victimization of civilians, the reintegration of rebel fighters into society, and the establishment of durable political, economic, and social institutions after the fighting ends. Additional inquiries consider why the UN deploys peacekeeping to some wars and not others, how and why operations differ from one another, and how the presence of and variation across missions impacts conflict countries before and after the fighting has stopped.

Article

Jihadist Governance in Civil Wars  

Aisha Ahmad

Although many nonstate armed groups try to rule over citizens, of special concern are jihadist groups that take power in conflict-affected states. Not only do jihadists espouse an extreme political vision, but these religiously motivated rebels also have an uncanny ability to rout and even overthrow incumbent governments. Whenever possible, jihadists will try to seize control of the entire state and replace incumbents with a new regime. If decisive military victory is not possible, they will seek control over pockets of territory and will build rudimentary proto-states within official state boundaries. Jihadist insurgents are not only motivated to fight, but are also very keen to govern over territory and people. In their mission to build alternative forms of order, they therefore collect taxes, enforce laws, and even offer rudimentary public services. In many conflict zones, jihadists are able to build stronger social contracts with citizens than the official government. Because of this success, many scholars and practitioners have erroneously assumed that jihadists must be spreading their ideologies to local communities, and thus converting citizens to their extremist beliefs. This analysis fundamentally misdiagnoses why jihadists are able to establish parallel forms of order in civil wars. Jihadists do not succeed in areas where communities have converted to extremism; rather, they thrive in regions where the official government has catastrophically failed to provide citizens with security, order, justice, and other basic services. Evidence from multiple cases shows that government corruption, ineptitude, and abuse—not extremism or ideological radicalization—best explain the rise of jihadist governance in conflict zones. It is not that local communities are enamored with the idea of jihadist rule; rather, they are disgusted and outraged by their incumbent governments.

Article

The Durability of Peace  

Caroline A. Hartzell and Amy Yuen

With wars—not just global, but civil wars and other domestic infightings—still being rampant in the modern world, scholars have begun to develop interest in identifying the conditions that can help establish a durable peace. Peace is a lack of conflict and freedom from fear of violence between social groups. Commonly understood as the absence of war or violent hostility, peace often involves compromise, and therefore is initiated with thoughtful active listening and communication to enhance and create genuine mutual understanding. The study of the durability of peace has greatly evolved through the years, and one of its implications is that recent empirical work on this topic has focused on civil war. Most of this study has been tailored in response to the model of war, a theory of armed conflict which presents war and peace as stages of a single process. Furthermore, this analysis on peace duration revolves around for main themes: the characteristics of conflict and conflict actors, belligerent-centered dynamics, the role of third parties, and the developments in the measurement, estimation, and the study of peace duration. Under the conceptions of peace, sustainable peace must be regarded as an important factor for the future of prosperity. Throughout the world, nurturing, empowerment, and communications are considered to be the crucial factors in creating and sustaining a durable peace.

Article

Civil Wars, Scientific Study of  

Idean Salehyan and Clayton L. Thyne

Civil war is an armed conflict between the state and another organized domestic party over a contested political incompatibility, which results in a number of casualties exceeding a certain threshold for both parties. Attempts to operationalize these criteria have produced many data sets, which conceptualize civil war as distinct from one-sided violence, organized crime, and communal fighting. Civil wars are devastating for states experiencing them, their neighbors, and the entire global community. Combatant and civilian deaths, rape, massive refugee flight, negative impacts on economy and infrastructure, spread of infectious diseases, global spread of illegal narcotics, and the promotion of terrorism are all consequences of civil wars. Theories explaining why civil wars occur focus on objectives of the rebels, ability of rebels to successfully challenge the government, influence of external actors on interactions between the government and the opposition, external financing of potential rebel groups, and impact of a state’s neighbors on the likelihood of civil conflict or how neighboring conflicts and refugee communities serve as breeding grounds for cross-border rebel movements. Conflicts persist until neither side believes that it can achieve unilateral victory and continued fighting is costly. Governments are more likely to win early when they have large armies, but time to government victory increases when they are faced with secessionist rebels and when external parties are involved. Meanwhile, external mediation diminishes informational and credible commitment problems during bargaining and reduces conflict duration. Promising directions for future research on civil war include geographic disaggregation, survey research, and computational/agent-based modeling.

Article

The Spatial Analysis of War  

Clionadh Raleigh, Frank D. W. Witmer, and John O’Loughlin

Analysis of civil and international conflict is an important component of the fields of political science and international relations. The theories that animate the study of conflict have focused on a combination of economic and ethnic–ideological motivations, along with political and systemic factors such as alliances and support from external benefactors. However, few studies have presented a coherent and compelling account of the persistence and patterns of conflict since 1945. Many conflict studies that consider spatial phenomena ignore the particularities of the data and the context of spatial relationships. Three strands of research on spatial analysis of war can be identified: studies that explored how neighboring states influence the propensity for the international spread of disputes; studies that lend support to both spatial heterogeneity and dependence explanations of civil war patterns in developing states; and work that incorporates space into quantitative civil war studies by modeling how subnational characteristics affect civil war risk. In general, the qualitative literature on conflict has provided insights that help to identify predictive variables for quantitative analysis, in particular the local spatial distribution of violence and its trends over time. This is evident in the case of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where violent events have erupted since independence in 1960. Despite the substantial progress in conflict research, there are a number of areas that deserve further investigation, including the specific contextual factors that govern the ebb and flow of conflict such as terrain, forest cover, distribution of supportive and opponent populations.

Article

The Political Economy of Violent Conflict Within States  

Achim Wennmann

The political economy of violent conflict is a body of literature that investigates how economic issues and interests shape the dynamics associated to violent conflict after the Cold War. The literature covers an area of research focusing on civil wars—the predominant type of conflict in the 1990s and early 2000s—and an area of research focusing on other types of violent conflict within states, such as permanent emergencies, criminal violence, and political violence associated to turbulent transitions. The first area involves four themes that have come to characterize discussions on the political economy of civil wars, including research on the role of greed and grievance in conflict onset, on economic interests in civil wars, on the nature of conflict economies, and on conflict financing. The second area responds to the evolution of violent conflict beyond the categories of “interstate” or “civil” war and shows how political economy research adapted to new types of violent conflict within states as it moved beyond the “post-Cold War” era. Overall, the literature on the political economy of violence conflict emphasizes the role of informal systems behind power, profits and violence, and the economic interests and functions of violence underlying to violent conflict. It has also become a conceptual laboratory for scholars who after years of field research tried to make sense of the realities of authoritarian, violent or war-affected countries. By extending the boundaries of the literature beyond the study of civil wars after the Cold War, political economy research can serve as an important analytical lens to better understand the constantly evolving nature of violent conflict and to inform sober judgment on the possible policy responses to them.

Article

Civil Wars and Displacement  

Ayşe Betül Çelik

The growing number of civil wars in the post-Cold War era has been accompanied by a rising number of forcibly displaced people, who either stay within the borders of their own countries, becoming internally displaced persons (IDPs), or cross borders to become refugees. Although many studies have been conducted on the reasons of conflict-induced displacement, various questions remain of interest for the scholars of international relations, especially questions pertaining but not limited to the (a) gendered aspects of conflict, displacement, and peace processes, (b) predicting possible future displacement zones, and (c) best political and social designs for returnee communities in post-civil war contexts. Most studies still focus on the negative consequences of forced migration, undermining how refugees and IDPs can also contribute to the cultural and political environment of the receiving societies. Considering that there is a huge variation in types of conflict, motivations for violence, and the resulting patterns of displacement within the category of civil war, more research on the actors forcing displacement, their intentions, and subsequent effects on return dynamics can benefit research in this field. Similarly, research on return and reconciliation needs to treat displacement and return as a continuum. Paying attention to conflict parties in civil war bears the potential for new areas of exploration whose outcomes can also shed light on policies for post-civil war construction and intergroup reconciliation.

Article

Religion, Insurgency, and Counterinsurgency  

Jason Klocek

The academic study of religion and irregular warfare has expanded considerably since the turn of the 21st century—driven by both global events such as 9/11 and empirical studies that find armed rebellions with religious dimensions to be longer, bloodier, and more difficult to resolve than nonreligious conflicts. Most of this research focuses on the religious, usually radical, ideas and practices of insurgent groups. Of particular interest has been the way religion shapes the motivations and means of guerrilla fighters. Less attention has been paid to the role of counterinsurgent armies in irregular, religious wars. Following the U.S.-led invasions in Iraq and Afghanistan, a few initial studies explored how state forces misunderstand or ignore the religious dynamics of armed conflict. A growing body of research since the mid-2010s has pushed further, cataloguing a more varied set of ways counterinsurgent forces account for religion in combat and information operations. Moving forward, studies that look at both sides of the battlefield need to expand their empirical emphases, as well as more directly address a common set of challenges to the broader study of religious violence—how best to conceptualize, measure, and analyze the religious dynamics of war. Future scholarship should also consider research designs that test the causal processes purported to link religion with conflict outcomes and pay increased attention to the interaction between insurgent and counterinsurgent forces.

Article

Conflict Forecasting and Prediction  

Vito D'Orazio

Predictive models, which includes forecasting models, are used to study all types of conflict and political violence, including civil wars, international conflict, terrorism, genocide, and protests. These models are defined as those where the researcher explicitly values predictive performance when building and analyzing the model. This is different from inferential models, where the researcher values the accurate operationalization of a theory, and experimental or quasi-experimental designs where the focus is on the estimation of a causal effect. Researchers employ preditive models to guide policy, to assess the importance of variables, to test and compare theories, and for the development of research methods. In addition to these practical applications, there are more fundamental arguments, rooted in the philosophy of science, as to why these models should be used to advance conflict research. Their use has led to numerous substantive findings. For example, while inferential models largely support the democratic peace hypothesis, predictive models have shown mixed results and have been used to refine the scope of the argument. Among the more robust findings are the presence of nonlinear relationships and the importance of dependencies in all types of conflict data. These findings have implications for how researchers model conflict processes. As predictive models become more common and more integrated into the study of conflict, it is important that researchers understand their underlying components to use them appropriately.

Article

Conflict Analysis and Resolution: Development of the Field  

Joyce Neu and Louis Kriesberg

The field of conflict analysis and resolution (CAR) is primarily defined as ideas about and applications of ways in which conflicts can be addressed constructively. The boundaries of the field cannot be sharply drawn. There are scholars, practitioners, and outside analysts who sometimes apply conflict resolution ideas and methods but who do not self-identify as belonging to the field. They do, nevertheless, contribute to the field. The field also refers to people designated or self-identified as conflict analysis and resolution scholars and/or practitioners. This article focuses on the development of the CAR field as an interdisciplinary social science endeavor within the broad international relations domain. The major periods covered include (1) development of the field and its preliminary beginnings from 1914 to 1945; (2) emergence of CAR as a field between 1946 and 1969; (3) expansion and institutionalization from 1970–1989; (4) diffusion and differentiation from 1990–2008; and, (5) advances and challenges 2009 through 2017. From 1914 to 1945, as a result of World War I, there was a rise in pacifism. The creation of the United Nations in 1945 following World War II was intended as a means to prevent war and maintain peace. CAR research focused on analyzing the causes of violent conflicts. Researchers drew on psychoanalytic tools to examine, for example, attributes of leaders and social movements. From 1946 to 1969, as a result of the Cold War and national liberation struggles, the world experienced an increase in the number of conflicts. Governmental organizations worked to avert a possible nuclear war and to limit conflict escalation through the United Nations and by the creation of forerunners to the European Union. In the nongovernmental sector, high-level unofficial meetings began taking place to build peace and reduce tensions. CAR research grew and included the use of game theory and rational models. The period of expansion and institutionalization (1970–1989) saw the growth of alternative dispute resolution that positively affected the creation of new CAR institutions. Nongovernmental CAR organizations grew in number and effectiveness offering dialogue and problem-solving workshops to disputing parties. Research focused on nonviolent means of resolving conflicts as well as how conflicts can be waged constructively. From 1990 to 2008, the field witnessed a period of diffusion and differentiation. The end of the Cold War gave way to a period with fewer armed conflicts. Nongovernmental organizations and university programs in CAR increased. Intergovernmental organizations such as the UN and the African Union began to focus on professionalizing their mediation and peacemaking efforts. The period from 2009 through 2017 saw the field continue to grow. New challenges included the quashing of nonviolent resistance movements in the Middle East and North Africa, the impacts of climate change, the rise in terrorism, and the widespread use of technology for both positive and negative impacts on peace. This period saw a dramatic increase in the application of CAR research and experience in governmental and intergovernmental organizations’ work.

Article

Civil Wars  

Stathis N. Kalyvas and Paul D. Kenny

A civil war, also known as intrastate war, is a war between organized groups within the same state or country. It is a high-intensity conflict that often involves regular armed forces. One of the reasons for the lack of consensus in the study of civil war is disagreement over what exactly civil war means. Theoretically, civil war overlaps with other categories of armed conflict, particularly revolution, political violence, ethnic conflict, and terrorism. Civil wars since the end of World War II have lasted for over four years on average, a considerable rise from the one-and-a-half-year average of the 1900–1944 period. While the rate of emergence of new civil wars has been relatively steady since the mid-19th century, the increasing length of those wars has resulted in increasing numbers of wars ongoing at any one time. Since 1945, civil wars have resulted in the deaths of over 25 million people, as well as the forced displacement of millions more, along with economic collapse. According to scholars of civil war research, the causes of civil war include economic motivations or greed, and political or social grievances. Greed-based explanations focus on individuals’ desire to maximize their profits, while grievance-based explanations center on conflict as a response to socioeconomic or political injustice. A third concept, opportunity-based explanations, talks about factors that make it easier to engage in violent mobilization.