Superpower Surrogacy and the Onset and Duration of Civil War: A Direct Empirical Test, 1947-1989
45 Pages Posted: 12 Mar 2018
Date Written: March 12, 2018
The bulk of social science theories explaining civil war focus on endogenous factors, generally ignoring the systemic effects of superpower rivalry during the Cold War. This study directly estimates US and Soviet rivalry by assessing the impact of CIA and KGB support to surrogates in proxy wars. Our results show that CIA support increases the risk of civil war, results that are robust to several alternative explanations and bias from endogeneity. CIA and KGB support, however, lowered the duration of wars that they may have generated, compared with other types of war, for instance ethnic wars. Superpower assistance to surrogates show a substantively large effect compared to the usual determinants of civil war, such as per capita income. It seems that ignoring systemic factors, particularly the interests of great powers only partially explain why some civil wars are more feasible than others. Proxy wars due to great power rivalry also possibly explain the bulk of current civil wars, and their lethality might be explained as the lack of restraint that the superpowers had to show to avoid a direct war between them. These results suggest that theories aimed at understanding why endogenous country conditions make civil war more feasible focus also on exogenous factors, such as great power rivalry. The question of proxiness also potentially challenges notions of commitment and time-inconsistency problems associated with explanations of why agents fail to find less costly bargains compared with fighting.
Keywords: Civil War, Super Power Rivalry
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