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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.


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.


Interventions/Uses of Force Short of War  

Brandon C. Prins

Studying the initial steps of the militarized conflict process may help to better uncover regularized patterns that produce dangerous encounters and decision processes in world politics. An understanding of armed conflict short of war is essential if the international community hopes to prevent conflict escalation and contagion. Interstate war is increasingly viewed as the outcome of a complex decision-making process rather than of a single policy choice that commits a nation from peace to war. In this vein, examining lower-level violent conflict offers three immediate benefits. First, it increases the number of observations for empirical analysis. The second reason for is that wars typically begin as nonviolent disagreements over contentious issues. Third, examining low-level militarized conflict helps avoid, or at least helps to minimize, selection effects. In addition, recent scholarship on foreign policy decision making resulting in violent interstate conflict goes in two very different and possibly incompatible directions. First, theoretical and empirical attention to enduring rivalry suggests that lasting perceptions of threat between states establish an environment of mistrust and fear, which inhibits the resolution of contentious issues. A second research program defines the use of force as part of a larger bargaining process over the allocation of scarce resources.