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Does Conflict Beget Conflict? Explaining Recurring Civil War

Title: Does Conflict Beget Conflict? Explaining Recurring Civil War
Author: Barbara F. Walter
Pub. Date: September 6, 2002
Full Text: Adobe Acrobat (PDF) [120 KB]    

This article seeks to explain why some countries experience recurring civil war while others do not. It argues that renewed war has less to do with the attributes of a previous war, as many people have argued, and more to do with the incentives individual citizens have to join rebel groups at any given point in time. Civil wars will have little chance to get off the ground unless individual farmers, shopkeepers, and workers choose to enlist in the rebel armies that are necessary to pursue a war, and enlistment is likely to be attractive when two conditions hold: the status quo for the average citizen is perceived to be worse than the possibility of death in combat, and there is no non-violent outlet for political change. An analysis of all civil wars ending between 1945 and 1996 suggests that improvements in basic living conditions and in the average person’s access to political participation have a significant negative effect on the likelihood of renewed war. Countries that are able to increase the economic well-being of their citizenry, and create a more open political system are less likely to experience multiple civil wars regardless of what happened in a previous conflict.

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