Civil Wars: What We Don't Know. (Review Essay)

By Wood, Elisabeth Jean | Global Governance, April-June 2003 | Go to article overview

Civil Wars: What We Don't Know. (Review Essay)


Wood, Elisabeth Jean, Global Governance


Why are some enduring civil conflicts resolved with essentially self-enforcing agreements, as in El Salvador and South Africa, while others seem unamenable to negotiated resolution even with extensive third-party intervention, as in Colombia and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict? Recent scholarly studies have identified important empirical regularities in the emergence, persistence, and negotiated resolution of civil wars. The marketing of war commodities such as diamonds and cocaine by parties to the conflict and by their regional allies contributes to the intractability of conflict. Third-party intervention sometimes contributes to a cessation of hostilities, particularly in the form of mediation services during the negotiation period or of security guarantees during the demobilization period. Ethnic polarization--especially where the parties perceive the stakes of war to be strictly indivisible--makes negotiated settlements difficult to reach. Ethnic violence (particularly in the form of ethnic cleansing), rhetorical manipulation of ethnic fears by political entrepreneurs, the ease of arms and cash flows in the increasingly globalized world economy (particularly where states are weak), and the all-too-often insufficient response of international and regional actors to initial violence also contribute to civil conflict and render peacebuilding difficult.

Yet there is a lot we do not yet understand about civil war and therefore, I argue, about negotiated settlements and peacebuilding. In some contexts, elites succeed in polarizing communities along ethnic lines, but in others they fail. International aid sometimes serves as a "carrot" that can bring warring parties to the table; in other contexts, aid sustains conflict. Diplomatic intervention sometimes reinforces beliefs that the other party is serious this time about peace although they backtracked last time, but it can lead to the emergence of "spoilers" in other contexts. We know that efforts to negotiate an end to civil war more often fail than succeed. According to one estimate, the parties to civil war engage in formal negotiations in about half the cases but successfully implement a negotiated settlement ending the war in less than a fifth of all civil wars. (1) Understanding why some civil wars but not others are amenable to negotiated resolution and sustained peacebuilding is, of course, more than a scholarly puzzle; it is essential for policymakers and others seeking to curtail the civil violence that continues to generate great human suffering. In this article I explore how what we don't know about civil wars may detract from peacebuilding efforts. I discuss three related issues and their implications for peacebuilding: the political economy of civil war and negotiated settlements; the microfoundations of civil war violence; and, more tentatively, distinct types of civil war. In the conclusion, I reflect on how these issues impact peacebuilding efforts.

The Political Economy of Civil War and Negotiated Settlements

Much of the recent literature on the political economy of civil war has focused on how the presence of war commodities such as cocaine and diamonds, particularly when controlled by insurgent forces, renders civil conflicts more likely, longer, and more difficult to resolve.2 In analyzing a new database of civil wars, Paul Collier and Anke Hoeffler found that the likelihood that a civil war will emerge from civil conflict and persist is significantly greater in those countries highly dependent on the export of primary commodities: "greed" displaces "grievance" as insurgents develop netwofrks to market commodities from areas they control, frequently through the collusion of governments and military forces of neighboring countries.3 Classic examples are "war diamonds" in Sierra Leone and Angola and cocaine in Colombia.

Collier and Hoeffler's focus on the export of primary commodities is intended to capture statistically such cases where highly "lootable" resources are available to armed groups, which can then pay for arms and new recruits. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Civil Wars: What We Don't Know. (Review Essay)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    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.