Armed intervention and civilian victimization in intrastate conflicts

Reed Wood, Jacob D. Kathman, Stephen E. Gent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

69 Scopus citations

Abstract

Research has begun to examine the relationship between changes in the conflict environment and levels of civilian victimization. We extend this work by examining the effect of external armed intervention on the decisions of governments and insurgent organizations to victimize civilians during civil wars. We theorize that changes in the balance of power in an intrastate conflict influence combatant strategies of violence. As a conflict actor weakens relative to its adversary, it employs increasingly violent tactics toward the civilian population as a means of reshaping the strategic landscape to its benefit. The reason for this is twofold. First, declining capabilities increase resource needs at the moment that extractive capacity is in decline. Second, declining capabilities inhibit control and policing, making less violent means of defection deterrence more difficult. As both resource extraction difficulties and internal threats increase, actors' incentives for violence against the population increase. To the extent that biased military interventions shift the balance of power between conflict actors, we argue that they alter actor incentives to victimize civilians. Specifically, intervention should reduce the level of violence employed by the supported faction and increase the level employed by the opposed faction. We test these arguments using data on civilian casualties and armed intervention in intrastate conflicts from 1989 to 2005. Our results support our expectations, suggesting that interventions shift the power balance and affect the levels of violence employed by combatants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)647-660
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Peace Research
Volume49
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 5 2012

Keywords

  • civilian victimization
  • insurgency
  • intervention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Safety Research
  • Political Science and International Relations

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