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FSU INR 2002 - Civil War

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Civil WarViolence by non-state actors: civil war and terrorismWhat is civil war? An armed conflict that occurs between organized actors within a state and thatmeets some minimum threshold for severity. Civil wars pit the government of the state against one or more rebel groups, who may also fight among themselves.Why study civil war in a class on IR?Civil war can give international component- while the primary dynamic occurs within the confines of a single country, the determinants and effects of a civil war are rarely so constrained. External actors often play a significant role in the onset, duration, and outcome of the civil conflict. Foreign states with an interest in the victory to their preferred side often give money, arms, training, and sanctuary. Also, civil wars often create refugee flows that can burden neighboring states, and they may involve widespread crimes against humanity that lead to greaterinternational efforts to intervene.Same theories can explain both inter- and intra-state wars- theoretical tools that we have developed to explain interstate wars are also in explaining their intrastate counterparts. By examining them side by side, we start to see these two kinds of conflict as a single, broader phenomenon: the use of violence by organized actors to pursue political interests. Seeing them this way permits useful comparisons and contrasts that deepen our understanding of both. Why Rebel?Territory, policy, regime.Separatism- the desire to create an independent state on territory carved from an existing state. Arises when a group that is concentrated in a particular region of the country has grievances withthe central government and expects to fare better under its own governance.Irredentism- the desire to detach a region from one country and attach it to another, usually because of shared ethnic or religious ties. Arises when people of one state share ethnic or religious ties with the people in the neighboring state and therefore expect that their interests willbe better served under its governance.Policy change- if leaving is impractical, a group motivated by grievances or greed may threaten civil war in order to change the policies pursued by the central government.Regime change- dissatisfied groups might seek to seize control of the central government and establish a new regime or restore an old one. Political exclusion of a significant group is a common reason that rebels may seek to overturn the existing policy.Why does dissatisfaction lead to armed conflict? Strong ethnic/religious ties make mobilization easier- the majority of civil wars involve mobilization along ethnic lines, meaning that the rebels and the government tend to draw supportfrom different ethnic groups. Because people of the same ethnic group tend to trust one another,it is easier to recruit fighters and raise funds from people of the same ethnicity than from outsiders. Ethnic groups may also be geographically concentrated in small areas, making it easierto coordinate their activities.Resources of rebels- in absence of strong ethnic ties or ideological motivations, groups that seek to mobilize against the government have to compensate supporters materially to encourage participation. Ex. Rebel groups in Africa with easy access to diamonds or other minerals can sells these good on international markets, sometimes illegally, and funnel the proceeds to their fighters. Another way rebel groups may amass fighters is through forcible recruitment, or kidnapping. Men, women, and children are taken and used as fighters, porters, messengers, spies,or sexual slaves. Foreign states may also intervene directly and send arms, money, or training to rebel groups.No peaceful alternative- the incentive to threaten or use violence depends in part of whether the normal political process allows peaceful methods for redressing grievances. Also, the ability of a rebel group to form depends in part on the government’s repressive capacity—how easily it can prevent, deter, or eliminate armed opposition. Wealth of country- poor countries are much more likely to experience civil wars than rich countries. People in poor countries have greater reason to be unhappy with their lot. A lack of economic opportunities can lead to a large number of unemployed men who can be recruited as fighters. Richer states tend to have better and stronger police and military forces as well as better ability to project their authority throughout the country. Poor countries with an inability to project forces throughout the country makes it possible for rebel groups to organize in places thatare beyond the government’s effective reach.Terrain- civil wars are more likely in countries that cover large areas, which are hard to police. Civil war risk is higher in countries with rugged terrain such as jungles and mountains which makes it difficult to root rebels out.International interest: co-ethnics and proxy wars- states or individuals may support rebellions that involve ethnic kin in other states. These ties may lead to a desire to protect ethnic kin and advance their interests. In some cases, the interests of outside parties can cause civil wars to become proxy wars—conflicts in which two opposing states fight by supporting opposite sides ina civil war in some third state.A Bargaining Framework of Civil WarCivil war as the failure of bargaining between states and rebels- the capabilities and resolve of each side may be hard to observe. This is particularly true of rebel groups, which often organize covertly and take steps to hide their strengths (or weakness) in order to avoid government crackdowns. Commitment problems can arise when anticipated shifts in power create incentives to fight preventively. And the conflict may take place over pieces of territory that are imbued with religious or ethnic significance and hence hard to divide. The costs of war and bargaining ranges (again)Power changes frequently in civil wars- when power is changing, the rising actor cannot crediblycommit not to exploit its power in the future to revise any deal made today; as a result, the actor that expects to grow weaker may prefer war now to a less desirable deal in the future. Changes inpower of rebels and government can arise regularly owing to the state’s economy. When the economy falls, the government is deprived of resources that could be used to combat a rebellion; at the same time, popular discontent with a poor economy makes it easier for


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