Who Takes the Blame? The Strategic Effects of Collateral Damage

82 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 6 Oct 2009

See all articles by Luke N. Condra

Luke N. Condra

Stanford University

Jacob N. Shapiro

Princeton University - Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs; Princeton University - Department of Political Science

Date Written: September 27, 2009

Abstract

Do armed actors in civil war reap strategic benefits from limiting civilian casualties and abiding by the laws of war? Furthermore, do civilians reward and punish armed actors for their behavior toward civilians? We study the strategic impact of civilian casualties in the Iraqi Civil War using original geo-coded data on Coalition-insurgent violence and on civilian casualties between February 2004 and December 2007. We argue that information civilians provide to Coalition forces is a key determinant of insurgent violence and provide evidence that this information ebbs and flows with how discriminately each actor treats the civilian population. We find that clear evidence that Coalition forces are punished for the collateral damage they inflict on civilians and that this indiscriminate behavior hurts the Coalition’s strategic objectives by increasing subsequent battlefield violence. We find limited evidence that civilians punish insurgent forces for their indiscriminate violence against civilians, at least in terms of reductions in subsequent violence. Besides implications for counter-insurgency policy, our data and findings advocate for the modeling of civil war-related outcomes at the sub-national level and for the inclusion of civilian agency in theories of insurgent violence.

Suggested Citation

Condra, Luke N. and Shapiro, Jacob N., Who Takes the Blame? The Strategic Effects of Collateral Damage (September 27, 2009). APSA 2009 Toronto Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1449387

Luke N. Condra (Contact Author)

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Jacob N. Shapiro

Princeton University - Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs ( email )

Princeton University
Princeton, NJ 08544-1021
United States

Princeton University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Corwin Hall
Princeton, NJ 08544-1013
United States

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