Explaining Civil War

Explaining Civil War

A Rational Choice Approach

Syed Mansoob Murshed

This book explores the pre-conditions for conflict in terms of growth failure and critically appraises the greed and grievance theories common to conflict literature. It is argued that various institutional mechanisms of restraint that can be labeled the ‘social contract’ are crucial for violent conflict avoidance. The reasons underpinning the instability of treaties ending civil wars, post-conflict reconstruction issues, liberal peace theory, and how globalization and conflict relate are also examined.

Chapter 4: The Uneasy Commitment to Peace

Syed Mansoob Murshed

Subjects: development studies, development economics, economics and finance, development economics, econometrics, game theory, politics and public policy, international relations, terrorism and security


INTRODUCTION The previous chapter examined the immediate causes of civil conflict based on greed and grievance, whereas the chapter prior to that looked at the pre-conditions for conflict in terms of growth failure and underdevelopment. The purpose of this chapter is to analyse why it is so difficult to end ongoing conflicts. In particular, the aim is to understand why there are so many false promises claiming to end civil wars. Collier (2004) argues that countries that have just experienced a civil war are more likely to have further conflict, with a 38.6% post-conflict risk based upon an analysis of 21 countries during 1965–99. He characterizes this phenomenon of recurring war as the ‘conflict trap’, and this position is currently very fashionable amongst policy makers. Others, such as Walter (2004) are less pessimistic; she states that for all civil wars between 1945 and 1996, only 36% were followed by another war. In civil war situations, negotiations often take place, bargains are struck, widely trumpeted peace treaties are signed, yet either one or more of the parties, or a newly formed splinter group or a faction unrepresented in the peace negotiations go back to war; see Table 4.1 on signed bargains to end internal conflict in the post-cold war era. Walter (2002) indicates that 62% of civil wars between 1940 and 1992 culminated in a signed peace treaty. Of these, only 57% were successfully implemented. The figure for the period after the cold war (Table 4.1) indicates that about 70%...

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