Combatant Fragmentation and the Dynamics of Civil War
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Findley, Michael G., and Peter J. Rudloff. "Combatant Fragmentation and the Dynamics of Civil War." British Journal of Political Science. Forthcoming (2012).
The dynamics and outcomes of civil wars are shaped by processes of change largely unaccounted for in current studies. We contend that wars are characterized by processes in which weaker actors are more likely to undergo radical changes such as fragmenting into multiple separate groups. Although extant work does not directly examine the fragmentation of combatants, fragmentation occurs in at least 45% of civil wars active since 1989. Some of the empirical literature addresses these complexities, albeit in understandably limited ways. Driven by the need for tractability, formal theories focusing on uncertainty and credible commitment problems assume constancy in the number and preferences of warring actors. We explore how the fragmentation of combatants affects the duration and outcomes of civil wars. A number of results are consistent with our expectations; and several counterintuitive results also emerge. We find that when combatants undergo fragmentation, the duration of war does not always increase and such wars often end in negotiated agreements. This result stands in contrast to the expectations of literatures on spoilers and moderates and extremists, in particular. Empirical cases, such as Iraq, Congo, Chechnya, and the Sudan illustrate the importance of fragmentation. More generally, this study demonstrates the value of accounting for diverse changes in actors and circumstances when studying the dynamics of war.
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