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Article

Once ended, a significant number of civil wars recur. One influential empirical international relations theory on which scholars have drawn in an effort to provide an explanation for this phenomenon is the bargaining model of war. Devised initially for the study of interstate war, the theory posits that bargaining problems may prevent belligerents from reaching a deal that enables them to avoid a costly war. Bargaining problems also have been identified as contributing to the recurrence of armed intrastate conflict. Working within the framework of bargaining theory, a number of scholars have claimed that the most effective way to inhibit a return to civil war is to end the conflict via military victory as such an outcome is thought to help solve key bargaining problems. However, a growing number of empirical tests cast doubt on this proposition. An analysis of the results of these tests as well as new scholarship on civil war termination highlight some of the limitations inherent in employing a theory devised for the study of interstate war to analyze questions related to civil wars.

Article

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.

Article

Jaclyn M. Johnson and Clayton L. Thyne

The devastating Syrian civil war that began after the Arab Spring in 2011 has reminded the international community of the many consequences of civil war. However, this conflict is simply one of many ongoing conflicts around the globe. Civil war has a number of effects on individual lives, the country experiencing the conflict, as well as the international system more broadly. The humanitarian costs of civil war are steep. Individuals are negatively impacted by civil war in a myriad of ways. Three main areas of research are of interest: mortality, physical and mental trauma, and education. Several factors increase the number of deaths in a civil war, including a lack of democracy, economic downturns, and foreign assistance to combatants. Even if civilians survive conflict, they are likely to endure trauma that affects both mental and physical health. Strong evidence indicates that civil war spreads infectious diseases and severely diminishes life expectancy. Mental health is also likely to suffer in the face of conflict, as individuals often must overcome debilitating trauma. Finally, children are particularly susceptible in civil war settings. Children are often unable to continue their education as a consequence of civil war because combatants often target schools strategically or the state is unable to fund education as a result of funneling resources to the conflict. Civil wars also pose a number of threats to the state itself. First, a state that has experienced a civil war is much more likely to have another civil war in its future. Conflict recurrence has been explained through the type of settlement that concludes the initial civil war, institutions that may prevent recurrence like proportional representation, and the role of third parties in providing peace-ensuring security guarantees. Beyond recurrence of war, scholars have looked at the impact that civil wars have on state-level institutions, including democratization. While most state-level effects of civil war seem to be deleterious, there may also be positive effects, specifically in terms of female representation. Civil war in sub-Saharan Africa has been shown to increase the number of female representatives, perhaps providing an avenue for gender equality. Civil wars have ripple effects that impact neighboring countries and the international system more broadly. Proximate states are often challenged with an influx of refugees that may burden social programs or facilitate the spread of diseases and illicit arms. However, positive consequences of hosting refugees may include trading opportunities or economic growth from remittances. Moving beyond proximate states, civil wars have consequences for the entire globe. For example, civil wars have been demonstrated to spur international terrorism. The civil war literature has explored the various effects of conflict at the individual, state, and interstate level.

Article

A major challenge for countries that emerge from civil war is the stabilization of the post-conflict order in a way that fighting does not break out again. Recent empirical and theoretical work on the resolution of civil wars and on the duration of peace strongly rely on the bargaining framework of war emphasizing information asymmetries and commitment problems as main reasons for why in some states civil wars recur repeatedly, whereas in other societies a conflict ends and a transition to a peaceful society is successful. The length of peace spells depends partly on information about the distribution of power that became available during the conflict, captured by the duration and intensity of the fighting as well as the type of conflict ending. Information problems are more relevant at earlier stages and with regard to the initiation of negotiations. In finding bargaining deals and securing their implementation, the conflict parties have to overcome commitment problems. The literature has investigated in more detail third-party security guarantees and power-sharing arrangements as mechanisms to get conflict parties to credibly commit to and adhere to a negotiated agreement. Recently, empirical research moved beyond the conclusion of peace agreements to the study of their implementation. Particular challenges for a peaceful order are the demobilization of ex-combatants, which is aggravated by time-inconsistency problems, the timing of elections, and the redistribution of economic resources. Finally, solutions become more difficult in multiparty conflicts and if the armed groups are fragmented.

Article

Once a civil war ends, there is high probability that the nation will relapse into renewed war within a few years. For a nation where a civil war has recently ended to relapse into renewed conflict, some dynamic process of contention must emerge that makes a resumption of armed conflict one—but not the only—possible outcome of that contentious episode. We can conceive of the dynamics by which contentious politics can lead to civil war recurrence as a function of three conditions. First, one or more dissident groups must emerge with the organizational and military capacity to mount and sustain an armed challenge to the postwar state. Second, one or more of those groups must have the incentive to resort to armed conflict rather than abide by the post–civil war order. Third, conditions and events in the postwar environment must evolve in a manner such that one or more of these groups must determine that they have an opportunity to revolt. This framework can be used to analyze how, in existing research, the outcome and key attributes of the now-ended civil war and conditions in the postwar environment affect whether dissident groups will resume armed conflict or sustain the peace.

Article

Caroline A. Hartzell

Civil wars typically have been terminated by a variety of means, including military victories, negotiated settlements and ceasefires, and “draws.” Three very different historical trends in the means by which civil wars have ended can be identified for the post–World War II period. A number of explanations have been developed to account for those trends, some of which focus on international factors and others on national or actor-level variables. Efforts to explain why civil wars end as they do are considered important because one of the most contested issues among political scientists who study civil wars is how “best” to end a civil war if the goal is to achieve a stable peace. Several factors have contributed to this debate, among them conflicting results produced by various studies on this topic as well as different understandings of the concepts war termination, civil war resolution, peace-building, and stable peace.