Elgar Handbook of Civil War and Fragile States
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Elgar Handbook of Civil War and Fragile States

Edited by Graham K. Brown and Arnim Langer

The Elgar Handbook of Civil War and Fragile States brings together contributions from a multidisciplinary group of internationally renowned scholars on such important issues as the causes of violent conflicts and state fragility, the challenges of conflict resolution and mediation, and the obstacles to post-conflict reconstruction and durable peace-building.
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Chapter 15: International dimensions of internal conflict

Nils W. Metternich, Kristian Skrede Gleditsch, Han Dorussen and Andrea Ruggeri


Civil wars are by definition violent conflicts between a state and some form of non-state actors (Sambanis 2004b). Perhaps not surprisingly, most scholars have looked for features within countries to account for why such conflicts break out and how they evolve (Blattman and Miguel 2010). However, it is misleading to simply equate civil wars with domestic conflict and look exclusively within countries to understand civil war. Transnational factors can play an important role for the initial outbreak of civil wars and the escalation and dynamics of conflict once underway. But transnational factors also can contribute to the resolution and mitigation of such conflicts. Indeed, since civil conflicts are not necessarily limited to an individual state and often involve participation by other states in various forms, a strict dichotomy between civil and inter-state wars is often untenable and inappropriate. Failing to theoretically and empirically account for the transnational dimension of civil wars is likely to lead to biased conclusions about the onset, duration and intensity of such conflicts. Moreover, many policy prescriptions based exclusively on a domestic understanding of civil war can be highly misleading and potentially counterproductive.

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