Empirical research on civil war onset has been largely dominated by two approaches: a correlational or “correlates of civil war” approach which seeks to identify country-level characteristics associated with a higher likelihood of civil war outbreak, and a bargaining approach which starts from the assumption that warfare is costly and which views civil conflict as a by-product of bargaining failures. Correlational and bargaining studies of internal conflict onset have reached an analytical plateau because they fail to specify the precise mechanisms that yield civil warfare instead of a different type of violent or nonviolent outcome. An alternative, contentious framework is advanced for studying civil war onset. This framework situates the conflict event within a larger cycle of contention and specifies the mechanisms through which civil conflict is most likely to occur. According to this contentious perspective, civil wars are commonly produced by the combination of one structural condition—a state crisis of authority and/or legitimacy—and the interdependent effect of two mechanisms—radicalization and militarization. Through theory development and vignettes from a handful of civil war cases, the article makes the case that the contentious approach holds promise for elucidating how exactly civil conflicts break out. Despite holding initial explanatory power, the contentious theory of civil war onset advanced herein awaits more systematic empirical testing.
Theories of Civil War Onset: Promises and Pitfalls
What is “threat framing”? It concerns how something or someone is perceived, labeled, and communicated as a threat to something or someone. The designation “threat,” notably, belongs to the wider family of negative concerns such as danger, risk, or hazard. Research on threat framing is not anchored in a single or specific field but rather is scattered across three separate and largely disconnected bodies of literature: framing theory, security studies, and crisis studies. It is noteworthy that whereas these literatures have contributed observations on how and under what consequences something is framed as a threat, none of them have sufficiently problematized the concept of threat. Crisis analysis considers the existence or perception of threat essential for a crisis to emerge, along with a perception of urgency and uncertainty, yet crisis studies focus on the meaning of “crisis” without problematizing the concept of threat. Likewise, security studies have spent a lot of ink defining “security,” typically understood as the “absence of threat,” but leave the notion of “threat” undefined. Further, framing theory is concerned with “problem definition” as a main or first function of framing but generally pays little or no attention to the meaning of “threat.” Moreover, cutting across these bodies of literature is the distinction between constructivist and rationalist approaches, both of which have contributed to the understanding of threat framing. Constructivist analyses have emphasized how threat framing can be embedded in a process of socialization and acculturation, making some frames appear normal and others highly contested. Rationalist approaches, on the other hand, have shown how threat framing can be a conscious strategic choice, intended to accomplish certain political effects such as the legitimization of extraordinary means, allocation of resources, or putting issues high on the political agenda. Although there are only a handful of studies explicitly combining insights across these fields, they have made some noteworthy observations. These studies have shown for example how different types of framing may fuel amity or enmity, cooperation, or conflict. These studies have also found that antagonistic threat frames are more likely to result in a securitizing or militarizing logic than do structural threat frames. Institutionalized threat frames are more likely to gain and maintain saliency, particularly if they are associated with policy monopolies. In the post-truth era, however, the link between evidence and saliency of frames is weakened, leaving room for a much more unpredictable politics of framing.
Transitional Justice During Armed Conflict
Cyanne E. Loyle
Armed conflict is ultimately about the violent confrontation between two or more groups; however, there is a range of behaviors, both violent and nonviolent, pursued by governments and rebel groups while conflict is ongoing that impacts the course and outcomes of that violence. The use of judicial or quasi-judicial institutions during armed conflict is one such behavior. While there is a well-developed body of literature that examines the conditions under which governments engage with the legacies of violence following armed conflict, we know comparatively little about these same institutions used while conflict is ongoing. Similar to the use of transitional justice following armed conflict or post-conflict justice, during-conflict transitional justice (DCJ) refers to “a judicial or quasi-judicial process initiated during an armed conflict that attempts to address wrongdoings that have taken or are taking place as part of that conflict” (according to Loyle and Binningsbø). DCJ includes a variety of institutional forms pursued by both governments and rebel groups such as human rights trials, truth commissions or commissions of inquiry, amnesty offers, reparations, purges, or exiles. As our current understanding of transitional justice has focused exclusively on these processes following a political transition or the termination of an armed conflict, we have a limited understanding of how and why these processes are used during conflict. Extant work has assumed, either implicitly or explicitly, that transitional justice is offered and put in place once violence has ended, but this is not the case. New data on this topic from the During-Conflict Justice dataset by Loyle and Binningsbø suggests that the use of transitional justice during conflict is a widespread and systematic policy across multiple actor groups. In 2017, Loyle and Binningsbø found that DCJ processes were used during over 60% of armed conflicts from 1946 through 2011; and of these processes 10% were put in place by rebel groups (i.e., the group challenging the government rather than the government in power). Three main questions arise from this new finding: Under what conditions are justice processes implemented during conflict, why are these processes put in place, and what is the likely effect of their implementation on the conflict itself? Answering these questions has important implications for understanding patterns of government and rebel behavior while conflict is ongoing and the impacts of those behaviors. Furthermore, this work helps us to broaden our understanding of the use of judicial and quasi-judicial processes to those periods where no power shift has taken place.
Transnational Social Movements in Latin America
Marisa von Bülow
Latin American transnational social movements (TSMs) are key actors in debates about the future of global governance. Since the 1990s, they have played an important role in creating new organizational fora to bring together civil society actors from around the globe. In spite of this relevance, the literature on social movements from the region focuses primarily—and often exclusively—on the domestic arena. Nevertheless, there is an increasingly influential body of scholarship from the region, which has contributed to relevant theoretical debates on how actors overcome collective action problems in constructing transnational social movements and how they articulate mobilization efforts at the local, national and international scales. The use of new digital technologies has further blurred the distinction among scales of activism. It has become harder to tell where interpretative frames originate, to trace diffusion paths across national borders, and to determine the boundaries of movements. At the same time, there are important gaps in the literature, chief among them the study of right-wing transnational networks.
Uganda: A Perspective on Politico-Military Fusion
Uganda is among the African countries characterized by high levels of politico-military fusion. In 1986, the National Resistance Movement (NRM), led by President Yoweri Museveni, assumed power after winning a five-year guerrilla war. NRM’s takeover was a continuation of an established tradition in which military means such as coups d’état, guerrilla wars, and military schemes had been used to effect regime changes since Uganda’s independence from the British in 1962. From its inception as a guerrilla force, the NRM’s military commanders, including Yoweri Museveni, doubled as political leaders, and Uganda is the only country in Africa where the military has official representation in the national assembly. Additionally, several military officers serve in the executive while others have been appointed to head numerous government departments that are ideally of civilian pursuit. Moreover, many significant political decisions, including constitutional amendments intended to facilitate Museveni’s presidency for life, were in essence determined in the context of a military atmosphere at the National Leadership Institute in Kyankwanzi (central Uganda). The military, the police, and other paramilitary structures are the bedrock of the NRM’s long-term grip on power and have played profound roles in President Museveni’s “victories” in the five presidential elections (1996, 2001, 2006, 2011, and 2016) in which he has competed. Thus, the presidency, the ruling party, and the military essentially function as a single entity. The wider society equally attaches high sociopolitical value to military culture, sustaining the shared mentality that military credentials are crucial in politics. Ultimately, an analysis of Uganda’s politico-military fusion contributes to our understanding of the militarization of politics and the general character of governments that emerged out of guerrilla wars in Africa and beyond.
Ukraine and the European Union
In early 2014, a series of dramatic crises in Ukraine generated headlines around the world. Most scholarly attention was placed on the tensions between the West and Russia, and the emergence of a new Cold War, especially following Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula and its military incursion in eastern Ukraine. The relations between Ukraine and the European Union (EU) have often been reduced to debates on whether the EU was to blame for the conflict, having “sleepwalked” into the Ukraine crisis by focusing on technical trade issues and failing to recognize the delicate geopolitical context. Other analysts pointed to the EU’s pursuit of regional hegemony, which has failed to recognize Russia’s legitimate geopolitical and economic interests in Ukraine. In practice, Ukraine‒EU relations have been more complex and nuanced, certainly when considering that Ukraine already declared its ambition to “return to Europe” and to seek EU membership with its proclamation of independence, in 1991. Ukraine-EU relations are perhaps best understood along four levels of inquiry. The first is domestic dynamics in Ukraine. Since the end of the Cold War, all Ukrainian governments have underlined the “Europeanness” of Ukraine and have also by and large followed a pro-EU course in their foreign policies, including the government under pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych. However, Ukraine’s European choice has often been limited to foreign-policy declarations. Even the pro-European and reform-oriented governments that led Ukraine after the 2004 Orange Revolution and the 2014 Maidan Square protests struggled to introduce far-reaching reforms because of the power of the “iron triangle” of oligarchic rule, corruption, and financial instability. The second line of inquiry concerns Ukraine-Russia relations. Since gaining independence, Ukraine’s strategy has been one of limited participation in Russia’s post-Soviet regional integration initiatives in order to safeguard its independence. However, Russia always used “sticks and carrots” vis-à-vis Ukraine to further its own policy objectives, ranging from offering gas-price discounts to cutting off gas supplies, imposing import bans on Ukrainian produce, and, since 2014, threatening and using the military to force Ukraine to acquiesce to its demands. A third line of inquiry is the EU’s policy toward Ukraine, based on bilateral relations and cooperation through the European Neighbourhood Policy and the Eastern Partnership. The EU has approached Ukraine as one among several neighbors in its attempt to build a ring of well-governed countries along its borders. Although the EU’s enlargement to Central and Eastern Europe generated more interest in Ukraine, member states have consistently ruled out EU membership for Ukraine. A fourth theme of inquiry is that of EU-Russia relations in the wider international context. Throughout the 1990s and the early 2000s, the EU clearly prioritized good political and economic relations with Russia over its relationship with its neighbors in the East, including Ukraine. Even when Russia annexed Crimea and when evidence of the role of Russian forces in eastern Ukraine had become impossible to ignore, the EU struggled to find a common stance on Russia.
Understanding Government Behavior During Armed Conflict
Cyanne E. Loyle
How and why do governments choose the strategies that they do during armed conflict? While there is a substantial body of research on the use of different tactics by governments and rebels during armed conflict, this work has rarely made an attempt to engage with scholars of different tactics in order to develop a broader understanding of how and why actors make the behavioral choices that they do and how these choices advance certain intended strategies. Furthermore, the work across tactics does not have unified findings. Understanding both the range of behaviors by conflict actors and the motivations for these behaviors is an important and necessary step for understanding the course of armed conflict more generally and for developing relevant policy aimed at changing these behaviors. Within existing literature on belligerent tactics, important lessons about government behaviors and why these specific behaviors are selected can be distilled. Objectives, strategies, and tactics should be disaggregated in order to think through the implications of different government decisions for understanding or changing behavior. This disaggregation aids us in identifying the areas of research in which we have confirmed findings and those questions regarding government behavior that require additional investigation. Moving forward we could and should develop a systematic list of the types of factors that impact certain behavioral choices, across tactics, but this is most useful if we can then link these factors to an understanding of the broader objectives and strategies that a government is trying to pursue.
Understanding Urban Riots
David Waddington and Matthew Moran
Urban riots are intense and highly destructive outbursts of collective violence. Intrinsically “explosive” and “volatile,” they often seem, at least at first sight, to lack any discernible and comprehensible political agenda. For this reason, riots are often miscast as “wantonly criminal,” “senseless,” or “irrational”—this was the view of early scholars working in this space and it persists in some corners today. Yet this perspective is simplistic and belies the fact that there is invariably an underlying logic to these violent events, even if this is difficult to decode and understand. The majority of contemporary research on urban riots—much of it empirical—recognizes the complexity of these events and seeks to unravel the web of causal factors, from crowd dynamics to broader social and political context, that frames the outbreak of riots. This work builds on the rational approaches to understanding crowd behavior that emerged in the latter part of the 20th century and provides for a more holistic understanding of their nature and causes. Riots are unique in the sense that every outbreak is the product of a distinct combination of drivers and contextual factors. At the same time, these events often share common features—political marginalization, economic deprivation, problematic police-public interactions—that make their broader life cycle a familiar one. This means that despite the seemingly chaotic nature of riots, researchers have been able to develop empirically informed analytical frameworks that provide for deep understanding of how these violent social events come about.
Urban Environmental Activism in Latin America
Marcelo Lopes de Souza
If environmental activism revolves around problems and challenges related to the socioecological context of a collectivity (that is, the material framework in which it exists, from the point of view of access to resources and infrastructure, conditions of public health ,and embeddedness in ecosystems and naturogenic processes and dynamics), urban environmental activism can be characterized as activism in which the agendas, actors, and conflicts involved are specifically related to the urban space and its peculiarities, considered from a broad socioecological perspective. Considering the immense body of literature that has accumulated over the last 30 years on the environmental problems of Latin America, it is disappointing to see that only a comparatively small part of it refers specifically to urban environmental conflicts and activism. This is disturbing, because already in 2007, 78% of Latin America’s population lived in cities or other geographical entities classified as urban. Moreover, although in some core capitalist countries, too, there are many kinds of urban environmental problems, caused by omission, irresponsibility, or structural causes linked to class differences and asymmetries of power, Latin American problems and conflicts—above all those related to environmental injustice—are far more dramatic. Symptomatically, environmental struggles have been massive and have typically involved basic rights and the non-satisfaction of basic needs in the cities of the region. At the end of the day, it is clear that there have always been two basic types of urban environmental activism in Latin America: on the one side, a kind of environmental activism (and ecological discourse) that masks contradictions and class struggle, as it adopts a strict “preservationist” perspective that reveals itself to be insensitive to human needs and rights; on the other side, however, there are radical social struggles that are at the same time environmental struggles, particularly those explicitly or implicitly related to environmental justice. This diversity demonstrates both the richness and the contradictions of a contested sociopolitical landscape, where terms like sustainability and environmental protection have been instrumentalized for different, sometimes mutually incompatible, purposes.
Urban Popular Movements in Latin America
In Latin America, urban popular movements emerged in the late 1940s as thousands of low-income migrants and city residents banded together to claim land, build self-help housing, and forge neighborhood organizations that fomented community participation and mobilized to demand land titles and city services. These neighborhoods were characterized by informal housing; inadequate provision of electricity, water, sanitation, transportation, and social services; and informal employment and underemployment. During the authoritarianism of the 1960s and 1970s, some urban popular movements resisted military dictatorship while others forged clientelist ties. Democratic and authoritarian leaders alike were forced to deal with the steady influx of rural migrants to cities, and regimes of all types often came to view informal neighborhoods founded by urban popular movements as an acceptable solution to some of the challenges of urbanization. In the 1980s and 1990s, neoliberal privatization of public utilities and cuts to social safety nets harmed urban popular movements, but national and local democratization expanded some avenues of participation, and the regional trend of urban popular movements expanded in numbers and extended its geographic reach. In the 2000s, socialist “Pink Tide” governments delivered benefits to low-income sectors, and many popular sectors supported these leftist regimes. Material gains proved modest, however, and state-movement alliances were rocky, leaving urban popular movements in the awkward position of being dissatisfied with national leadership, yet preferring the Pink Tide incumbents to most alternatives. And in the 2010s, a new “right turn” emerged, as conservative leaders replaced many Pink Tide presidents, threatening to reintroduce the repressive over-policing of popular sectors. Throughout these periods, the core conceptual identity of some urban popular movements shifted from the poblador (the “founder” seeking to meet his or her family’s needs) to the vecino (the “neighbor” collaborating with other movement participants through collective efforts), to the ciudadano (the empowered “citizen” who recognizes his or her needs as rights to be secured through political engagement).
Venezuela: Coup-Proofing From Pérez Jiménez to Maduro
Deborah L. Norden
From the middle of the 20th century, Venezuela’s governments have demonstrated surprising immunity to successful coups. The more than 40-year Punto Fijo democracy (1958–1999) boasted free and competitive elections even while the vast majority of Latin American governments fell to military rule. Two decades later, the beleaguered government of Nicolás Maduro withstood not only national, but international demands for a military coup under conditions of virtual economic collapse and extreme political crisis. This resilience is largely a function of successful coup-proofing—deliberate government policies to both reward military loyalty and defend against possible dissent. The Bolivarian leaders of the early 21st century—Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro— built on a combination of strategies previously utilized by either the Pérez Jiménez military regime (1948–1958) or the Punto Fijo democratic regime, notably expanding such elements as politicization and the creation of competing militarized forces (counterbalancing) to fit with the revolutionary model that the chavistas sought to pursue.
Violence Against and Policing of LGBTQ Communities: A Historical Perspective
Courtenay W. Daum
Law enforcement has a lengthy history of policing LGBTQ communities. Throughout the 20th century, police utilized laws prohibiting same-sex sexual conduct to criminalize LGBTQ individuals, and to target public gathering places including gay bars. Sodomy prohibitions were supplemented by mental health diagnoses including assumptions about criminal pathologies among LGBTQ individuals and the government’s fear that LGBTQ individuals’ sexual perversions made them a national security risk to subject LGBTQ communities to extensive policing based on their alleged sexual deviance. The successes of the gay rights movement led the American Psychiatric Association to declassify homosexuality as a mental health disorder in the 1970s, and the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that prohibitions on sodomy run afoul of the Constitution ended the de jure criminalization of LGBTQ individuals based on their sexual conduct. Today, policing of LGBTQ communities consists of both overpolicing and underenforcement. Law enforcement regularly profiles some facets of LGBTQ communities in order to selectively enforce general criminal prohibitions on public lewdness, solicitation, loitering, and vagrancy—consistent with the goals of “quality of life” policing—on gay men, transwomen, and LGBTQ youth, respectively. The selective enforcement of these laws often targets LGBTQ people of color and other intersectionally identified LGBTQ individuals in order to criminalize their existence based on ongoing stereotypes about sexual deviancy. In addition, police regularly fail to recognize LGBTQ individuals as victims of crimes, with the exception of particularly heinous hate crimes, and do not adequately attend to their needs and/or subject them to secondary victimization. As such, the relationship between many LGBTQ communities and law enforcement continues to be characterized by antagonisms and mistrust.
Violence, Politics, and Gender
Gabrielle S. Bardall
This article presents a conceptual orientation to the intersection of gender, politics, and violence. The first part of the article will introduce the subject by reviewing the primary conceptual framework and empirical knowledge on the topic to date and discussing the theoretical heritage of the concept. Establishing a key distinction between gender-motivated and gender differentiated violence, this article will discuss the gender dimensions of political violence and the political dimensions of gender-based violence. The latter half of the article reviews a number of the key questions driving research and dialogue in the field in the 21st century.
Violent Regime Change: Causes and Consequences
Dov Levin and Carmela Lutmar
The practice of foreign imposed regime change (FIRCs) is old, multicausal, and multifaceted. FIRCs have two main characteristics: they include some form of violent use of force to execute them (either covert or overt in nature), and their consequence is a change in the leadership of the polity in which they take place. FIRCs are frequently claimed to have major effects on their targets, such as inducing shifts towards the regime type preferred by the intervener, inducing intra-state violence, increasing cooperation with the target, and improving the economic welfare of the intervener. A review of the literature on the causes and effects of such interventions as well as the main existing datasets of FIRCs shows that significant progress has been made in our understanding of these phenomena with research on some aspects of FIRCs, such as their utility as a tool of inducing democratization, reaching a near scholarly consensus in this regard. Scholars studying this topic can adjust their current approaches (such as agreement upon a list of FIRCs, and the avoidance of conceptual over-stretching) in order to enable continued progress.
Vulnerable Groups During Crisis
Sarah E. DeYoung
During crisis events such as humanitarian conflicts, population displacement, natural disasters, and others, some people are more vulnerable to long-term physical, psychological, and overall adverse outcomes. Aspects of context that affect vulnerability include: (a) the nature of the hazard or conflict event; (b) the geographic location and structural surroundings; and (c) involvement of key groups during crisis. The nature of the event includes barriers for access to well-being in high-income and low-income contexts, the speed of onset of the hazard, the scope and type of hazard (localized or catastrophic, natural or technological, and other factors). Geographic location and structural surroundings include factors such as isolation caused by an island context, structural mitigation (such as earthquake-resistant construction), pollution and environmental exposure, and implementation of land use planning or sustainable farming. Finally, with regard to involvement of key groups in crisis, it is important to consider ways in which group coordination, logistics, cultural competency, public policy, social movements, and other mechanisms can exacerbate or improve conditions for vulnerable groups. Groups more likely to experience adverse outcomes in disasters include: ethnic and racial minoritized persons, people considered to be low caste, women, children, infants, sexual minorities, religious minorities, elders, and immigrants and refugees. Displacement and relocation are associated with specific increases in exposure to food insecurity, human trafficking, and reduced access to reproductive care. Contextual factors are also related to the severity of the adverse outcomes these groups experience in crisis. These factors include access to healthcare, access to education, and economic status. There are also unique groups whose needs, social systems, and cultural factors increase barriers to evacuation, accessing warning information, or accessing safe sheltering. These groups include persons with functional and access needs including medical or cognitive impairments, elderly individuals, people with companion animals, and people with mental illness.
War and Religion: The Iran−Iraq War
Religion has historically played a central role in motivating rulers to start and individuals to participate in war. However, the decline of religion in international politics following the Peace of Westphalia and the inception of the modern nation-state system, which built and highlighted a sense of national identity, undermined the contribution of religion to politics and consequently, conflict. The case of the Iran−Iraq War, however, shows a different pattern in which religion did play a crucial role in motivating individuals to participate in war. Although the evidence suggests that religious motivations by no means contributed to Saddam’s decision to launch the war, an overview of the Iranian leaders’ speeches and martyrs’ statements reveals that religion significantly motivated people to take part in the war. While Iraqi leaders tried to mobilize the population by highlighting the allegedly Persian-Arab historical antagonism and propagating an Iraqi-centered form of Arab nationalism, Iranian leaders exploited religious symbols and emotions to encourage war participation, garner public support, alleviate the suffering of the people, and build military morale. The Iranian leadership painted the war as a battle between believers and unbelievers, Muslims and infidels, and the true and the false. This strategy turned out to be an effective tool of mobilization during wartime.
War and Religion: An Overview
Jason Klocek and Ron E. Hassner
Although largely ignored by international relations scholars until the 21st century, religion has been and remains a pervasive social force both on and off the battlefield. It affects how combatants mobilize and prepare for war. It regulates how they fight, including unit organization and strategic decision making. In addition, religious identities, beliefs, practices, and symbols shape how and when combatants pursue peace. The study of religion and war seeks to discover and understand these varied influences, even when religion is not the pretext for fighting.
War and Religion: The Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s
The breakup of Yugoslavia resulted in considerable violence and in the creation of new states. Religion is one of the factors that we need to consider in order to understand the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s. Some of the key leaders involved in the conflict referred to religion in their rhetoric and had the support of religious organizations; places of worship were targeted for destruction; and religion to some extent influenced how actors from outside of Yugoslavia approached the conflict. However, religion is far from a sufficient explanation for the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s. In particular, the role of leaders motivated by wanting to stay in power, the legacy of the war crimes committed in Yugoslavia during World War II, and the federal structure of Yugoslavia need to be considered as well.
War in Political Philosophy
We can distinguish between three moral approaches to war: pacifism, realism, and just war theory. There are various theoretical approaches to war within the just war tradition. One of the central disputes between these approaches concerns whether war is morally exceptional (as held by exceptionalists) or morally continuous with ordinary life (as held by reductivists). There are also significant debates concerning key substantive issues in the ethics of war, such as reductivist challenges to the thesis that combatants fighting an unjust war are the moral equals of those fighting a just war, and the challenge to reductivism that it undermines the principle of noncombatant immunity. There are also changing attitudes toward wars of humanitarian intervention. One underexplored challenge to the permissibility of such wars lies in the better outcomes of alternative ways of alleviating suffering. The notion of unconventional warfare has also recently come to prominence, not least with respect to the moral status of human shields.
War Making and the Building of State Capacity: Expanding the Bivariate Relationship
Karen A. Rasler and William R. Thompson
A central cleavage in the war making-state making literature is between advocates of the notion that warfare has been the principal path to developing stronger states and critics who argue that the relationship no longer holds, especially in non-European contexts. It is suggested that the problem is simply one of theoretical specification. Increasingly intensive warfare, as manifested in European combat, made states stronger. Less intensive warfare, particularly common after 1945, is less likely to do so. Empirical analysis of a more representative data set on state capacity (revenues as a proportion of gross domestic product [GDP]), focusing on cases since 1870, strongly supports this point of view. The intensiveness of war is not the only factor at work—regime type and win/loss outcomes matter as well—but the relationship does not appear to be constrained by the level of development.