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Unformatted text preview: American Political Science Review Vol. 97, No. 1 February 2003 Ethnicity, Insurgency, and Civil War JAMES D. FEARON and DAVID D. LAITIN Stanford University A n influential conventional wisdom holds that civil wars proliferated rapidly with the end of the Cold War and that the root cause of many or most of these has been ethnic and religious antagonisms. We show that the current prevalence of internal war is mainly the result of a steady accumulation of protracted conflicts since the 1950s and 1960s rather than a sudden change associated with a new, post-Cold War international system. We also find that after controlling for per capita income, more ethnically or religiously diverse countries have been no more likely to experience significant civil violence in this period. We argue for understanding civil war in this period in terms of insurgency or rural guerrilla warfare, a particular form of military practice that can be harnessed to diverse political agendas. The factors that explain which countries have been at risk for civil war are not their ethnic or religious characteristics but rather the conditions that favor insurgency. These include povertywhich marks financially and bureaucratically weak states and also favors rebel recruitmentpolitical instability, 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 statesmore than a third of the United Nations systemand 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?...
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