Competitive Alliances and Civil War Recurrence
Published in: International Studies Quarterly, Volume 60, Issue 1, (March 2016), Pages 24-37. doi: 10.1093/isq/sqv002
Posted on rand.org Jun 8, 2023
Why do internal wars start anew after they apparently end? I argue that rebel arrangements made for strategic reasons during wars sometimes create provocative effects even after conflicts end; coalitions formed between opposing groups during conflicts often precipitate disruptive commitment problems at the end of wars. This competition can abet the conflict renewal process, especially after wars terminating in military outcomes. Using new data on competitive militant alliances in civil wars, this study probes how rebel rivalries impact peace duration after wars. The evidence indicates that rivalry within coalitions shortens the period of postconflict peace. Wars ending in military victories give way, as many scholars argue, to lengthier periods of peace. But this effect reverses in the context of conflicts characterized by competitive alliances. Indeed, the combination of competitive alliances and a military victory strongly precipitates a resumption of hostilities. This perpetuation of the "conflict trap" proves especially pronounced when rebels win wars. My study implies that peacekeeping or third party forces may find the least local consent for their presence precisely where they matter most in post-conflict environments. As former work has shown, victorious rebels, having wrested power by force from vanquished governments, have relatively little desire for outside interference.