Why Do Some Civil Wars Last So Much Longer Than Others?

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Why Do Some Civil Wars Last So Much Longer Than Others?. James Fearon 2004 Journal of Peace Research 41(3): 275-301. Didi Kuo Gov 2782 March 31, 2008. Research question. Number of Civil Wars has increased since 1945 (dataset N=128)
Why Do Some Civil Wars Last So Much Longer Than Others?James Fearon2004Journal of Peace Research 41(3): 275-301Didi Kuo Gov 2782 March 31, 2008Research question
  • Number of Civil Wars has increased since 1945 (dataset N=128)
  • Average duration has increased to almost 16 years in 1999
  • CWs last longer when there is military stalemate…so, given the appeal of pre-conflict settlements or imbalanced military forces, why is there still conflict? And what are the conditions that lead to stalemate?
  • Classes/Durations of Civil Wars
  • Coup attempts and popular revolutions –brief
  • Anti-colonial wars – brief
  • Peripheral insurgencies of rural guerilla bands at the borders – long
  • Breakup of USSR and Yugoslavia – brief
  • ‘Sons of the soil’ wars about land or resources between dominant ethnic majority and peripheral ethnic minority – long
  • Contraband funding – long
  • Data
  • 128 cases between 1945-99, fighting between the government and non-state group with political goals (political autonomy, state control, change in policy)
  • 1,000 people killed overall; average 100 killed per year; 100 killed on both sides
  • New war start when one side is defeated or drops out;
  • Start year is the first year in which 100 people are killed or a violent event occurs
  • End year when there is a military victory, demobilization, or peace agreement followed by two years of peace
  • ‘The Usual Suspects’
  • Ethnic heterogeneity
  • Per capita income
  • Population
  • Ethnic and secessionist wars
  • Democracy
  • Costs
  • How to explain
  • Peripheral insurgencies are wars, with some lasting longer than others…
  • Private information and commitment problems prevent early settlements
  • Government capabilities are critical: ‘tipping point’ exposing government weakness will be exploited by rebel groups
  • Fearon’s game-theoretic model explains coups/peripheral insurgencies as the result of commitment problems, because when the government regains strength, it can renege on deals made with rebel groups
  • The Game: G and R
  • Government is strong with probability
  • Government is weak with probability
  • Government chooses
  • If government is strong, retains
  • War Period
  • Rebels achieve military dominance with probability
  • Government gains military dominance with probability
  • Neither achieves dominance with probability
  • If rebels achieve dominance, stop fighting; if government achieves dominance, game continues with a peace period
  • If stalemate, government can choose to stop fighting  autonomous region for rebels and an end to fighting
  • Or rebels choose to stop fighting and peace period begins
  • Preferences
  • Both sides want more control and the payoffs of control are linear in
  • In war period, government payoff is and rebel’s payoff is , both of which can be greater than zero
  • But , so there is always a regional autonomy deal available
  • If rebels win, they get an autonomous region with payoff
  • The Fight Equilibrium
  • If these two conditions hold, then the fight equilibrium is a subgame perfect equilibrium: the government does not share power, and rebels always fight when the government is weak.
  • Condition 1:
  • Condition 2:
  • The expected duration of a civil war is therefore , so when neither side is decisively stronger, this period can be very long
  • Also, if benefits of fighting exceed benefits of negotiating, then one side with no chance of winning would continue to sustain the fight.
  • No peace?
  • There should be a set of deals that both sides prefer
  • But peace could also be impossible...
  • If is the government’s value for the FE when it is strong,
  • And is the rebels’ value for the FE when the government is weak,
  • When , no peace is possible.
  • What does Fearon mean by ‘credible commitment’?
  • ‘Peace’ outcomes
  • Revisit conditions 1 and 2. If 1 holds, but
  • then rebels choose not to fight and the government retains control of the region with
  • Alternatively, if 2 holds and
  • then the rebels fight when they can, and the government cedes autonomy when there is a shock.Benefits, Costs, and Capabilities
  • If rebels benefit from day-to-day fighting, then the benefits of any deal need to be higher
  • But the more the government gives away, the more it will be tempted to renege when it becomes strong
  • How does Fearon explain ‘sons of the soil’ rebellions and anti-colonial rebellions with the model?
  • Two questions:
  • How could we know, ex ante, the ‘value’ of ?
  • Fearon shows that changing the parameter values of change the probabilities of constructing a negotiated settlement. What does this mean (or could it mean) in a theoretical sense?
  • Conclusions
  • Peripheral insurgencies involve different ‘technologies ‘ than coups or popular rebellions
  • Wars will be longer when the central government’s stake in the region is greater, when the land has natural resources, or when the land is needed for migration of members of the ethnic minority/majority
  • Civil war literature needs to move beyond ‘relative capabilities’ and instead examine how capabilities differ when the stakes differ
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