Academic journal article Political Research Quarterly

Transnational Ethnic Kin and Civil War Outcomes

Academic journal article Political Research Quarterly

Transnational Ethnic Kin and Civil War Outcomes

Article excerpt

Introduction

Strong ethnic allegiances have a profound impact on political and economic activities all over the world. Despite normative traditions to the contrary in some systems of thought, this reality applies to both foreign and domestic politics and during both wartime and peace-time. I propose in the following analysis to examine the effects of ethnic ties across borders on violent conflicts within borders. Civil wars in which combatants are mobilized along ethnic lines are harder to resolve due to "powerful, permeative, passionate, and pervasive" ethnic affiliations (Horowitz 1985, 12). The outbreak of conflict among ethnic groups increases the "incompatibility of national identities" (Chapman and Roeder 2007, 679) and "destroy(s) the possibilities for ethnic cooperation" (Kaufmann 1996, 137). The separatist goal of the majority of ethnic civil wars presents a serious threat to the territorial integrity of a country, adding yet another complication to ethnic armed conflicts. These characteristics of ethnic civil wars have led some scholars to conclude that ethnic civil wars are harder to resolve through a negotiated settlement than ideological wars (Horowitz 1985; Kaufmann 1996; Licklider 1995; Sambanis 2001). However, despite these complications, nearly a third of all ethnic civil wars that started and ended between 1950 and 2006 ended in a negotiated settlement.1

In recent years, a growing number of scholarly works have pointed to the transnational dimensions of civil wars as important catalysts to the initiation and sustenance of violent conflicts. Ethnic ties across internationally recognized borders provide external sanctuaries for rebels as well as a larger pool of human and economic resources that rebels can draw on in mobilizing for violent conflict (Cederman, Girardin, and Gleditsch 2009; K. S. Gleditsch 2007; Gurr 1993; Jenne 2004; Saideman and Ayres 2000; Salehyan 2007). Furthermore, insurgents can avoid government repression by blending into these communities. They can also find shelter, recruit new members, and gather intelligence from among their ethnic kin. For instance, the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan cannot be fully examined without taking into account its heavy reliance on its ethnic brethren, the Pashtuns, across the border in Pakistan (see, for instance, Salehyan 2010). In addition, the onset and sustainability of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan [PKK]) insurgency in Turkey has been facilitated and greatly shaped by the availability of logistical and political support from ethnic Kurds outside Turkish borders. In fact, as Tezcur (2013a) documents, recruits born in Syria, Iraq, and Iran make around one-fifth of all PKK fighters. Thus, civil war should not be treated as "a fully domestic phenomenon" as "actors, resources, and events span national boundaries" (K.S. Gleditsch 2007, 293-94).

These existing studies have enhanced our understanding of civil war by emphasizing how international factors, such as transborder ethnic kin, can greatly shape the resources and opportunities for violent conflict. Can the same factor lead to a war outcome that is more favorable to rebels? In this paper I argue that ethnically mobilized rebel groups with kin across an international border have a comparative advantage over those that lack such a linkage by extracting concessions from the government. The presence of ethnic enclaves across an international border reduces the government's expected utility of continuing to fight, making a negotiated settlement more attractive than it would be in the absence of cross-border ethnic kin. In what follows, I first outline the mechanisms through which neighboring ethnic kin help put an end to ethnic civil wars so that the war outcome is more favorable to warring ethnically mobilized groups. The argument is then put to a test against a list of ethnic civil wars that started and ended between 1950 and 2006. The findings provide support for the critical role that transnational ethnic ties play on war outcome. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.