Learning How Not to Fire a Gun: The Impact of Combatant Training on Civilian Killings
43 Pages Posted: 22 Nov 2011 Last revised: 7 Mar 2015
Date Written: February 21, 2015
Military theorists and practitioners have long argued that training shapes how combatants treat civilians during war. While the literature on civilian killing in civil war has expanded rapidly, there is little systematic evidence regarding the impact of training on combatant behavior, and almost none for non-state armed groups, despite that fact that such groups intensively train their fighters. This article argues that political training reduces civilian killings, particularly among insurgent groups that emphasize the strategic and tactical importance of restraint towards civilian populations. We test the observable implications of our theory using survey data on ex-insurgents from Colombia and sub-national data on civilian killings. We find support for our hypothesis, with results that are robust to a range of model specifications and controls, including alternate sources of combatant discipline, such as military training and punishment.
Keywords: civil war, civilian abuse, survey instrument, demobilized combatants
JEL Classification: D74
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation