Civil Wars, Insecurity, and Intervention

Civil Wars, Insecurity, and Intervention

Civil Wars, Insecurity, and Intervention

Civil Wars, Insecurity, and Intervention


Since the end of the cold war, a series of costly civil wars, many of them ethnic conflicts, have dominated the international security agenda. The international community, often acting through the United Nations or regional organizations like NATO, has felt compelled to intervene with military forces in many of these conflicts -- four of which comprise the heart of this book: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Somalia, Cambodia, and Rwanda. Civil Wars, Insecurity, and Intervention is a detailed examination by a host of distinguished scholars of these recent interventions in order to draw lessons for today's policy debates. The contributors view ethnic conflict and internal war through the prism of the concept of the security dilemma -- a situation in which parties with strong incentives to cooperate wind up nonetheless in bloody competition out of distrust of the opponent. Civil Wars, Insecurity, and Intervention assesses how international intervention can help solve the security dilemma in civil wars by designing political and military arrangements that make security commitments credible to the warring parties. The mixed record of partial successes, failures, and in some cases counterproductive interventions suggests an urgent need to extract lessons with a view toward developing a framework for making future policy choices.


Barbara F. Walter

This book is about how fear and uncertainty can combine to promote and prolong civil wars. In it we explore three questions. To what extent do mutual security fears contribute to the outbreak of civil war? To what extend do these fears discourage groups from negotiating settlements, even if they would prefer to avoid continued war? Under what conditions is outside intervention likely to ameliorate these fears and help end violence? Our aim is to uncover the conditions under which high levels of uncertainty and fear are likely to emerge within a country, to explain why these fears might then lead to war, and to offer some suggestions on how outside intervention might or might not help manage these issues.

Over the last fifty years the number of civil wars has increased to the point where civil wars now exceed the number of interstate wars. This trend is disturbing for three reasons. First, civil wars tend to last almost twice as long as interstate wars (33 months versus 18.5). Second, once they begin they are very difficult to resolve short of a decisive military victory. And third, even if the two sides do sign a peace treaty, most of these cases are likely to experience renewed violence in the future. In short, civil wars are long, bloody, and they resist settlement.

Much has been written about why civil wars begin and why they are so difficult to resolve. This literature has tended to focus on the stated goals of the belligerents to determine why they would go to war rather than on more general environmental factors. Factions fought because they wanted control of the government, territory, or revolutionary change, and they ended . . .

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