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Ethnicity, Insurgency, and Civil War

by James D Fearon, David D Laitin
The American Political Science Review American Political Science Review ()
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JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact An influential conventional wisdom h the Cold War and that the root cause antagonisms. We show that the current p accumulation of protracted conflicts sinc with a new, post-Cold War international sys more ethnically or religiously diverse coun violence in this period. We argue for under rural guerrilla warfare, a particular form agendas. The factors that explain which cou religious characteristics but rather the con marks financially and bureaucratically wea rough terrain, and large populations. B etween 1945 and 1999, about 3.33 million battle deaths occurred in the 25 interstate wars that killed at least 1,000 and had at least 100 dead on each side. These wars involved just 25 states that suffered casualties of at least 1,000 and had a median duration of not quite 3 months. In contrast, in the same period there were roughly 127 civil wars that killed at least 1,000, 25 of which were ongoing in 1999. A con-servative estimate of the total dead as a direct result of these conflicts is 16.2 million, five times the interstate toll. These civil wars occurred in 73 states-more than a third of the United Nations system-and had a median duration of roughly six years.1 The civil conflicts in this period surely produced refugee flows far greater than their death toll and far greater than the refugee flows associated with interstate wars since 1945. Cases such as Afghanistan, Somalia, and Lebanon testify to the economic devastation that civil wars can produce. By these crude measures, civil war has been a far greater scourge than interstate war in this period, though it has been studied far less. What explains the recent prevalence of violent civil conflict around the world? Is it due to the end of the Cold War and associated changes in the international system, or is it the result of longer-term trends? Why have some countries had civil wars while others have not? and Why did the wars break out when they did? We address these questions using data for the period 1945 to 1999 on the 161 countries that had a population of at least half a million in 1990.

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