External Interventions and the Duration of Civil Wars
19 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2016
Date Written: September 2000
Previous studies have argued that longer civil wars have been caused by ethnically polarized societies, since rebel cohesion is easier and more lasting with polarization. This study shows that external interventions tend to reduce the cost of coordinating a rebellion (or of fighting a rebellion), thereby lengthening the duration of civil wars even in societies that are not ethnically polarized.
Elbadawi and Sambanis combine an empirical model of external intervention with a theoretical model of civil war duration. Their empirical model of intervention allows them to analyze civil war duration using expected rather than actual external intervention as an explanatory variable in the duration model.
Unlike previous studies, they find that external intervention is positively associated with the duration of civil war.
They distinguish partial third-party interventions that extend the length of war from multilateral peace operations, which have a mandate to restore peace without taking sides - and which typically take place at war's end, or at least when both sides have agreed to a cease-fire.
In a future paper the authors will examine whether partial third-party interventions - whatever their effect on a war's duration - increase the risk of war's recurrence. If that proves true, then even if interventions reduce the length of civil war they may do so at the cost of further destabilizing the political system and sowing the seeds of future rebellion.
This paper - a product of Public Economics, Development Research Group - is part of a larger effort in the group to study the economics of civil wars, crime, and violence. The study was funded by the Bank's Research Support Budget under the research project The Economics of Political and Criminal Violence (RPO 682-99). Ibrahim Elbadawi may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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