The Conduct and Consequences of War
Summary and Keywords
War is merely an outward expression of an inward state, an enlargement of a daily action. It is bloodier, more spectacular, more destructive, but it is the collective result of humans’ individual activities. The law of war is a legal jargon that refers to the aspect of public international law concerning acceptable justifications to engage in war (jus ad bellum) and the limits to acceptable wartime conduct (jus in bello). Among other issues, modern laws of war address declarations of war, acceptance of surrender and the treatment of prisoners of war; military necessity, along with distinction and proportionality; and the prohibition of certain weapons that may cause unnecessary suffering. It has often been commented that creating laws for something as inherently lawless as war seems like a lesson in absurdity. However, based on the adherence to what amounted to customary international law by warring parties through the ages, it was felt that codifying laws of war would be beneficial. But while most analytical attention is devoted to explaining why wars and militarized disputes occur, there is also some need to focus on what effects or consequences wars and disputes generate. Wars and, to a lesser extent, disputes have had exceptionally strong influences on the way the world works, and previous wars and disputes are likely to strongly influence the subsequent probability of more wars and disputes.
Over the past decade research by social scientists on the conduct and consequences of war has expanded considerably. Previously, scholarly research had been heavily oriented towards the analysis of the causes of interstate war and its onset. Two simultaneous trends, however, have characterized scholarship on war since the 1990s. First, studies of the dynamics of civil war have proliferated. Second, war is conceptualized as a series of inter-related stages in which the onset, conduct, and termination of wars as well as post-war relations are analyzed theoretically and empirically in a more integrated fashion.
In this chapter we review and assess this body of recent scholarship that has shifted the focus from war onset to questions of how combatants wage war and what are the longer-term social, political, and economic consequences of warfare for countries and their populations. We examine scholarly research on the conduct and consequences of both interstate and civil wars.
We organize our analysis into three main sections. We begin with research on how states and rebel groups wage war with particular attention given to questions regarding war expansion, compliance with the laws of war, and war severity. In the second section we turn to the literature on war duration, termination, and outcomes. We discuss different explanations for when and why wars come to an end and then consider the question of how war's end influences the prospects for a stable post-war peace. We then examine recent scholarship on the consequences of war for post-war trends in political stability and change, economic growth, and broader conditions of pubic health. We conclude with a discussion of some of the important contributions associated with recent scholarship on the conduct and consequences of war as well as promising directions for future research.
The Waging of Civil and International Wars
What accounts for the nature of the wars we see? This broad question drives a new research tradition in conflict studies that compliments more traditional analyses of war onset by shifting the focus to state behavior during war. This research takes us beyond understandings of why states fight one another to engaging questions of why states join ongoing wars, when and why they follow the laws of war, and what explains the severity of wars. Taken together, these questions help open the black box of wartime behavior.
Intervention and the Expansion of Interstate Wars
Research on war expansion developed as a natural outgrowth of analyses of war onset: scholars studying why states initiate conflict shifted their focus to understand why third parties join ongoing wars. Beginning with Altfeld and Bueno de Mesquita (1979), war expansion has been understood within a rationalist framework; that is, in terms of the decision-calculus of third parties when choosing whether to remain neutral or to join ongoing conflicts. They model this process as a function of the benefits to be gleaned from participation, those to be had from victory by a particular side, and the level of uncertainty in the international system. In a contemporaneous article, Siverson and King (1980) approach the war expansion question more specifically as a question about the contagion effect engendered by alliances.
Subsequently, the link between alliances and joining behavior has dominated studies of war expansion, spawning a broad research tradition that focuses on alliances and geography, differences among types of alliances, and the characteristics of alliance members. Siverson and Starr (1991), for example, find a strong interaction effect between geography and alliances, in that a warring neighbor who is an ally strongly increases the likelihood of a state joining an existing conflict. Leeds et al. (2000) also find that the specific content of alliance obligations is critical to understanding when states choose to intervene, and that states uphold the terms of their alliance commitments nearly 75 percent of the time. Alliance behavior is also an important topic in the study of democratic wartime behavior. While Choi (2004) presents findings suggesting that democracies are particularly likely to align with one another, Reiter and Stam (2002) provide counter-evidence that democracies are willing to align with non-democracies when it serves their strategic interests. Given this tendency to uphold alliance obligations and empirical evidence showing that war initiators are more successful when their adversary does not receive third-party assistance (Gartner and Siverson 1996), recent theoretical research suggests that states, understanding joining dynamics, might manipulate war aims in order to reduce the likelihood of outside intervention (Werner 2000). By limiting aims that challenge the interests of third parties, attackers can deter third-party intervention by reducing the benefits of intervention or the costs of non-intervention.
These studies suggest that war expansion should be understood as the consequence of a decision-calculus undertaken by potential joiners. While much of the contemporary literature focuses on alliance behavior, this only indirectly gets at the question of who will join ongoing conflicts. We know that states are more likely than not to uphold their alliance commitments (Leeds et al. 2000), but a full explanation of war expansion from this perspective would also require that we explain when states form alliances in the first place. Finally, Gartner and Siverson's (1996) and Werner's (2000) analyses suggest that strategic thinking must be the focus of future research on war expansion; not only do third parties weigh the benefits of intervention against its potential costs and the likelihood of success, but war initiators understand this and may choose adversaries or manipulate war aims in order to deter potential joiners. This suggests a selection effect which empirical analysis has not yet explored.
Intervention in Civil Wars
The analog to studies of war expansion in the interstate context is the study of intervention in the civil war context. Research in this field treats the decision to intervene in much the same way as the war expansion literature treats the potential joiner's decision calculus. That is, intervention is the result of a rational, utility-maximizing decision-calculus in which potential interveners take into account the costs and benefits of intervention as well as the potential for achieving desired outcomes. Understood in these terms, both domestic and international strategic considerations affect the decision to intervene, with the Cold War geopolitical climate much more conducive to countervailing interventions than the post-Cold War era has been (Regan 2000), and peacekeeping-oriented interventions most likely in states with ethnic, trade, military, or colonial ties to the intervening state (Rost and Greig 2011).
Whether states are most likely to intervene in easy or hard cases – that is, whether the likelihood of success and likely costs of intervening affect the intervention decision – is still open for debate. While Regan (2000) finds that civil war intensity is negatively related to the propensity to intervene and Aydin (2010) shows that states will delay intervention when previous interventions by other states have failed to influence the course of the conflict, other results contradict these findings. Rost and Greig (2011) show that state-based interventions for peacekeeping purposes are often driven by humanitarian concerns; the likelihood of intervention increases for tough cases – long ethnic wars and conflicts that kill and displace large numbers of civilians. Additionally, Gent (2008) shows that the likelihood of success may not affect the intervention decision equally for government and opposition-targeted interventions. Examining rebel and government-targeted interventions separately, Gent (2008) finds that both are more likely when governments face stronger rebel groups, thus implying that intervention in support of rebel groups occurs when the likelihood of success is highest, but intervention supporting governments is actually most likely when states face their most intense challenges.
There are two likely sources of the discrepancies in this literature. First, most analyses have focused exclusively on the intervener's decision calculus, or the supply side, failing to take into account variation in the demand for intervention. As Fortna (2008) demonstrates particularly with regard to consent-based peacekeeping, the incentives and choices of the belligerents within the civil war state are an important factor in determining where intervention occurs. Second, there is significant inconsistency in the literature's treatment of the goals of interveners. Some analyses assume that states intervene to end conflicts, while others don't make this limiting assumption, but still fail to distinguish among interventions for different purposes. Kathman's (2010) analysis of contiguous state interveners represents an important theoretical and empirical step forward in this respect. He develops a theory specific to contiguous state interventions, and rather than treating all contiguous states as equally likely to intervene, develops a measure of conflict infection risk that predicts the likelihood of conflict spreading to each contiguous state. Empirically, he finds that as the risk of contagion increases, so does the probability of intervention by at-risk neighbors. This research develops a convincing mechanism and empirical test to explain a subset of interventions, and should be followed up with additional research that thinks critically about different types and goals of interventions in civil wars.
Compliance with the Laws of War
Scholars have recently begun studying the conditions under which compliance with the laws of war is most likely, and the mechanisms most important in determining compliance. This new research agenda represents a promising innovation in conflict studies, as it shifts focus toward understanding state behavior during war and the strategic and normative considerations that influence states' decision-making processes. Two key questions drive scholarship in this tradition; first, does international law constrain state behavior even when the state is threatened by severe conflict, and second, can observed compliance be attributed to ratification status, or is it instead a result of strategic decision making?
Scholars have yet to provide conclusive answers to these questions; while compliance is observed in many circumstances, most scholars attribute observed restraint to factors other than international law. Legro (1995), for example, finds that international agreements had limited impact on Britain and Germany's use of unrestricted submarine warfare, strategic bombing of civilian targets, and chemical weapons during World War II. Instead, he argues that restraint on both sides is better explained by the culture of military organization in the two states. Legro concludes that compliance is not so much driven by ratification status, but is better explained by a state's military leadership developing preferences for or against certain types of weapons, independent of the laws of war.
In recent analyses of civilian targeting during interstate war, Downes (2006) and Valentino et al. (2006) also find a mixed compliance record, and more importantly, that international law itself has little impact on a state's propensity for civilian targeting. Downes argues that civilian targeting occurs most often when states are fighting protracted wars of attrition and desire to save lives on their own side, or when they intend to annex enemy territory with potentially hostile civilians. Valentino et al. (2006) similarly find that the decision to target civilians is driven by strategic considerations and is unconstrained by treaty obligations relating to the laws of war.
While Downes and Valentino et al.'s analyses thus suggest that international law has little effect on state behavior and that observed compliance is incidental, Price (1997) and Morrow (2007) argue that law does exert some influence on compliance behavior. Price's study attributes variation in the use of chemical weapons to the terms of international agreements, arguing that complete bans are more effective than partial bans. Morrow (2007), on the other hand, demonstrates that law's impact varies depending upon issue area, regime characteristics, and adversary identity. He analyzes compliance in eight issue areas for interstate wars from 1900 to 1991, finding the worst compliance records on civilian targeting and prisoners of war, which perhaps accounts for the largely negative conclusions drawn by Downes (2006) and Valentino et al. (2006). Additionally, Morrow finds, unlike Valentino et al., that democratic states are more likely to comply after ratification than before, suggesting that obligations under international law do affect state behavior, at least in democratic regimes. Finally, he demonstrates that compliance increases significantly when an adversary has also ratified a given treaty, arguing this effect is due to reciprocity.
Overall, this scholarship suggests that factors beyond ratification drive observed rates of compliance with the laws of war. International law is not universally effective, instead varying in its ability to constrain state behavior during war. Additional research should aim to more fully explicate the mechanisms driving variation in compliance, as several explanations have been raised but have not yet been subjected to rigorous testing. In particular, research should explore whether variation in compliance is explained by democratic accountability or reciprocal enforcement alone, or whether it is better explained in a principle/agent framework in which compliance varies according to the scope of individual violations in different issue areas (see Morrow 2007).
Civilian Targeting in Civil War
With respect to civil wars, little research addresses questions of compliance with legal obligations since the legal principals regulating internal wars are far less developed than the laws related to interstate conflicts. With the recent formation of the International Criminal Court, however, states and rebel groups are now subject to legal investigation for failure to comply with basic principals of the laws of war. While not analyzed from the perspective of compliance with the laws of war, the mistreatment and deliberate targeting of civilian populations is an active area of research by scholars who study civil wars (Wickham-Crowley 1990; Valentino et al. 2004; Kalyvas 2006; Humphreys and Weinstein 2006; Hultman 2007; Weinstein 2007).
The majority of research on this topic treats the use of violence against civilians as a strategic choice; that is, combatants target civilians in order to induce their compliance, signal resolve to/or impose costs upon the adversary, to weaken an opponent's support base, or to extract resources from the population. Civilian targeting, these theories suggest, is used under conditions that reduce the costs or increase the benefits of this policy relative to other strategic options. In his seminal work on the topic, Kalyvas (2006) demonstrates that combatants resort to the use of indiscriminate violence to coerce civilian populations when they lack the information and control necessary to target defectors selectively or deter defection through nonviolent means. Similarly, Valentino (2004) and Valentino et al. (2004) find that incumbents are more likely to resort to mass killing of civilians when faced with strong insurgent opponents that they are unable to defeat through more conventional tactics.
More recent analyses build upon these earlier works, adding levels of complexity to the central theories developed previously. Balcells (2011) brings political considerations back in, finding that direct violence is most likely in areas where pre-conflict political power between state and rebel supporters was at parity, while indirect violence is most likely in locations where the adversary's pre-war political support was highest. Wood (2010) accounts for the impact of relative strength and adversary strategy, finding that weak rebel groups, lacking the capacity to protect civilian populations, will increase their use of violence in response to state violence, while strong rebel groups display the opposite pattern of behavior. Finally, Lyall (2010) also finds conditionalities in the relationship between state behavior and insurgent reactions, demonstrating that government “sweep” operations are much more effective at preventing and delaying insurgent violence when carried out by forces of the same ethnicity as the insurgent group.
One important area for future research in this field is the consequences or effectiveness of violence as a strategy. Much of the existing literature is predicated upon the assumption that violence, particularly indiscriminate violence, is ineffective, but little systematic empirical research has been done to support this conventional wisdom. Two notable exceptions are Lyall's (2009) examination of aerial bombing in the Chechen conflict and Kocher et al.'s (2011) study of aerial bombing by United States and South Vietnamese forces during the Vietnam war, but these two studies generate inconsistent results, and thus leave the effectiveness question open to debate.
Losses Suffered in Wars
Until recently, scholars treated war severity as an explanatory variable, rather than an outcome to be explained. Studies of war duration and outcome since the early 1980s have explored the role of battle losses in facilitating termination or victory (see Cannizzo 1980). More recently, however, scholarship has taken up the issue of war severity directly, and empirical research now suggests that the tactics and strategies used by states during war, and the political pressures that compel them to adopt those policies, affect the severity of conflict. Biddle (2004), for instance, argues that war-fighting strategies influence the magnitude of losses sustained during war, and finds that states employing the “modern system of force” reduce their exposure to lethal firepower, thus limiting their losses. Valentino et al. (2010) examine the reasons behind different strategic choices, arguing that democratic sensitivity to the costs of war pressure democratic leaders to adopt military policies designed to limit fatalities. They find that increasing military capabilities decreases civilian and military fatalities, while reliance on guerrilla or attrition strategies, as well as fighting on or near one's own territory, increases fatalities. Relating these findings to democratic governance, they report that democracies are significantly more likely to join powerful alliances and less likely to use attrition or guerrilla strategies, or to fight on their own territory.
Civil war studies also consistently find democracy to have a negative impact on conflict severity, with democratic states regularly suffering fewer battle losses than nondemocracies (Lacina 2006). This result holds with regard to both total battle deaths and daily death rates (Lujala 2009), and when regime type is modeled in terms of winning coalition (WC) size, as Heger and Salehyan (2007) find that small WC states suffer more deaths during civil war. Regarding state military strength, recent research by Lujala (2009) refines previous nation-level analyses by employing sub-national data and taking into account relative capabilities. Lujala demonstrates that relative equality between government and rebel forces leads to the most deadly conflicts, as rebels with the strength to fight back will likely inflict more losses than those without the ability to sustain heavy engagement with government forces.
While research on conflict severity is still developing, these studies suggest that democracy and military strength are consistent predictors of conflict severity, although the mechanisms posited for democracy's impact differ for civil and interstate war. What existing research does not tell us, particularly in the civil war context, is how different war-fighting strategies affect conflict severity. Additionally, we do not have a good sense of how battle losses trend throughout the course of conflict; are wars most deadly in their initial phase, or do they become more deadly as adversaries adapt to one another's strategies? In other words, the escalatory dynamics of civil conflict have yet to be systematically examined. Future research should aim to address these questions in order to provide a more complete picture of the determinants of conflict severity.
The Duration, Termination, and Outcome of War
What accounts for the duration, termination, and outcomes of interstate and civil wars, and the durability of the peace that follows these conflicts? These questions represent a central focus of contemporary conflict studies, and are closely linked in terms of their explanations. A major innovation in this literature in the past 10–15 years has been the extension of the bargaining model of war from its original application in the context of war onset (Blainey 1973; Fearon 1995) to its use in the context of war duration, termination, and outcome. Blainey's argument that war is never accidental, but instead occurs when “two nations decide they can gain more by fighting than by negotiating” (Blainey 1973: 159), carries serious implications for not only the outbreak of war, but also the course it takes and how it ends.
The turn to bargaining models has placed relative military capabilities and battlefield developments at the center of much of the theoretical literature on war duration, termination, and outcomes. This focus, however, has spawned a backlash in recent years, as patterns that contradict the implications of bargaining models are detected and theorized. In particular, taking into account different war-fighting strategies, methods of force employment, and the dynamics of asymmetric conflicts, scholars have begun to challenge traditional bargaining models and their implications for war duration, termination, and outcomes, and the durability of post-war peace. A more fundamental challenge to the current state of bargaining approaches comes from Reiter (2009), who argues that formal analyses, by prioritizing either information asymmetries or commitment problems while assuming the other does not exist, can generate misleading and incorrect predictions with regard to war duration and termination. This critique is discussed in more detail below.
Duration of Wars
A strong tradition in war duration research draws insights from bargaining models. Understood in this framework, war duration is closely linked to factors that influence the relative strength of each combatant. Thus, theoretical and empirical research suggests that longer wars occur when opponents of relatively equal strength cannot achieve breakthroughs on the battlefield (Bennett and Stam 1996; Slantchev 2004; Filson and Werner 2007a), although this pattern does not hold for wars involving non-state actors where a large asymmetry in power increases war duration (Sullivan 2008).
While empirical evidence thus seems to support the primary tenet of the bargaining model, several additions, modifications, and direct challenges to this framework suggest that relative military strength may not be the best predictor of war duration. Bennett and Stam (1996), for example, demonstrate that military strategy has a large substantive impact on war duration, independent of military strength, with attrition and punishment strategies leading to longer wars than maneuver strategies. The type of political objectives sought by a war initiator may also offset the impact of military strength, as war aims that require significant target compliance generally lead to longer wars (Sullivan 2008). Still others argue that domestic political sensitivity to concessions-making increases conflict duration, while domestic cost-sensitivity leads to shorter wars (Mattes and Morgan 2004; Filson and Werner 2007b). Thus, democracies are expected to fight shorter wars (Filson and Werner 2007a) whereas empirical evidence demonstrates that mixed regimes will fight longer wars as they “gamble for resurrection” in the face of high domestic costs for war losses (Goemans 2000; see also Bennett and Stam 1996). Recent research by Lyall (2010), however, suggests that this relationship is conditional upon conflict type, as he finds no relationship between democracy and war duration in the context of counterinsurgency wars.
Each of these studies examines factors beyond relative military power that influence war duration, thereby augmenting purely material explanations. Biddle (2004), however, more directly challenges bargaining models of war duration by comparing the predictive power of models including traditional measures of relative military capabilities to those accounting for combatants' methods of force employment. Biddle demonstrates that models taking force employment into account generate more accurate predictions of war duration than those assuming an unconditional relationship between military power and war duration. A second important challenge to traditional applications of bargaining models comes from Reiter (2009). He demonstrates that the argument that decisive battlefield outcomes promote quick termination is conditional upon the absence of commitment problems. When compliance fears dominate information asymmetries, battle losses and the expectation of future losses may not be sufficient to end conflict, as belligerents will continue fighting in pursuit of absolute victory in order to eliminate the threat of the losing state defecting from post-war settlements. Reiter thus demonstrates that commitment problems and information asymmetries have varying effects on war duration, and both must be accounted for in models of conflict duration and termination.
Existing literature on war duration thus suggests that traditional empirical applications of the bargaining model are insufficient. The impact of capabilities is conditional upon the manner in which they are deployed (Biddle 2004) and whether information or commitment problems are most relevant (Reiter 2009), while factors such as strategy choice, war aims, and domestic political considerations also significantly influence the duration of conflict. Additional research should aim, following Biddle, to explore the predictive power of different models of war duration in order to provide a clearer picture of the relevance of different explanatory theories. Also, while we know the impact of military capabilities is conditional upon methods of force employment, we do not yet know whether the impact of military power is similarly conditional upon domestic political conditions.
Scholars studying the duration of civil wars also commonly apply a rationalist perspective. Factors that increase the costs of sustaining the fight generally shorten wars, while those that raise the costs of concessions-making tend to lengthen conflicts. Along these lines, research suggests that the availability of contraband funding for rebel groups lengthens conflicts by providing rebels with the economic resources to sustain their campaigns (Fearon 2004) However, additional research demonstrates that the influence of contraband is mitigated by its market value; declining prices for these exports tend to shorten conflicts (Collier et al. 2004). Research suggests that structural conditions also affect civil war duration, such as the stakes of war, ethnic divisions, and the number of combatants involved. For example, ethnic conflicts over control of territory are generally longer than those fought over control of the central government (Balch-Lindsay and Enterline 2000; Fearon 2004; Collier et al. 2004), and Cunningham (2006) finds that civil wars with a greater number of combatant actors on each side are longer than those with fewer combatants.
Third-party intervention has also received significant attention in the civil war duration literature, with scholars generally arguing that intervention affects duration by augmenting the military strength of combatants. Empirical findings are mixed, however; while results consistently show that unbiased intervention or simultaneous intervention on both sides of a conflict increase war duration (Balch-Lindsay and Enterline 2000; Regan 2002; Balch-Lindsay et al. 2008), biased interventions generate more inconsistent results. Most analysts find that biased intervention shortens conflict duration (Regan 2002; Collier et al. 2004), but this result is contradicted in other analyses (Balch-Lindsay and Enterline 2000). This discrepancy is likely due to the fact that most studies do not account for the multiple ways in which civil wars can end, nor do they take into account the intentions or goals of the intervener. To account for the former deficiency, Balch-Lindsay et al. (2008) apply a competing risks framework to the question of civil war duration, finding that biased interventions decrease the time to victory for the supported party, while increasing time to negotiated settlement.
Addressing the latter shortcoming, Cunningham (2010) focuses on the goals of third parties, and finds that when interveners pursue agendas that are independent of those of the internal combatants, wars are more difficult to terminate due to decreased incentives to negotiate and a higher likelihood that commitment problems stymie settlements. This suggests that the empirical finding that intervention lengthens war may be driven by a subset of cases in which third parties intervene with specific goals. Ultimately, analyses focused on intervention do not take into account the potential selection effect that influences when states will intervene. If Gent (2008) is correct, then biased intervention should be most likely when the power ratio between government and rebel forces is close to parity, a factor which, if ignored, may bias the results of these analyses.
Until recently, this literature suffered from a major weakness in that it relied empirically on state-level variables that did not fully capture the relative or dyadic nature of its theoretical propositions. Cunningham et al.'s (2009) new dyadic data represents an important contribution to the field; rather than using measures of state capacity only and essentially assuming a constant level of strength of rebel groups, they explicitly measure the relative strength, mobilization capacity, and fighting capacity of rebel groups and apply a truly dyadic empirical approach. This new data allows Cunningham et al. to more explicitly test bargaining-based theoretical propositions, which demonstrates that relatively strong rebel groups decrease war duration, while weak rebels may be able to prolong a fight if they operate in the periphery and can effectively avoid defeat. New research in this field should continue to approach questions of war duration and outcome with dyadic data and theory.
Ending Wars as a Bargaining Process
Much of the war termination literature also builds off of bargaining models of war. Interstate wars rarely end in the complete destruction of the defeated party's military forces. Instead, new information is revealed through combat operations and negotiating behavior which enables belligerents to converge on a mutually agreeable settlement short of total war. Following Blainey's (1973) contribution, Wittman (1979) provides the first articulation of the bargaining model in the context of war termination (also see Pillar 1983). He argues theoretically that war continues until both adversaries believe they can be made better off through settlement. Subsequent analyses have focused on both the battlefield conditions and strategies of negotiations leading states to believe settlement is the better option.
Often using formal models, these analyses show that as a state's resources are depleted from battle losses, it has incentives to negotiate a settlement more acceptable to its adversary rather than suffer total defeat (Filson and Werner 2002; Smith and Stam 2004). Further, fighting battles reduces uncertainty by revealing information about resolve, military effectiveness, and the true balance of power between adversaries, causing expectations on the likely outcome of the war to converge, and making settlement possible (Wagner 2000). Wartime negotiations – making and rejecting offers – provide adversaries with additional information, which Slantchev (2003b) argues makes war termination more likely.
Challenging traditional notions regarding the likelihood of termination in the face of large asymmetries in capabilities, Slantchev (2003a) argues that war termination depends upon states' abilities to both impose and bear the costs of fighting. In his model success in war depends upon more than simply winning battles. If a weaker state can minimize the costs it bears while forcing its adversary to expand its war effort, the benefits of fighting relative to its costs are reduced, and the stronger state may choose termination. The implication of this argument relates closely to Biddle's (2004) empirical critique of the bargaining literature that finds modern methods of force employment can mitigate losses during war, thereby shifting the balance of costs and benefits independent of relative military capabilities. Reiter's (2009) critique of bargaining approaches also has implications for war termination. While traditional approaches argue that fighting battles reveals information and increases the likelihood of termination, Reiter suggests that this is only the case if belligerents expect their opponent to comply with the post-war status quo. If commitment problems are severe, information revealed during battles and war-time negotiations will have little effect on termination.
Biddle's argument that country-year measures of military capabilities are inexact and crude proxies for the concepts advanced in theoretical models is a strong one that should be taken seriously by scholars. We therefore appreciate Ramsay's (2008) contribution, which uses battle trend data rather than country-level measures of military capabilities to empirically test the implications of bargaining theories of war termination, and advocate future research adopting this strategy for testing the implications of bargaining theories, not only in the war termination literature.
Much of the literature on civil war termination also focuses on how battlefield developments affect the termination of civil wars. Collier et al. (2004) build on the idea of war as an information revelation mechanism, arguing that the probability of settlement should increase as war duration increases (as more battles are fought) and more information is revealed regarding the relative strength of each side. Others focus on the costs associated with battle, with conditions that increase the costs of victory increasing the likelihood of settlement. Specifically, settlements are more likely when the costs of battle are high and the relative payoffs from victory decrease (Walter 2002). Also, a relatively equal balance of power between combatants creates a mutually hurting stalemate, in which neither side can achieve victory, and settlement becomes more likely (Walter 2002).
Empirical results support many of these theoretical predictions. Several scholars show that the longer a civil war lasts, the more likely it is to terminate (Regan 2002; Collier et al. 2004; Fearon 2004), and more specifically, that the probability of negotiated settlement increases as conflict duration increases (Mason et al. 1999). The magnitude of conflict, measured as total war deaths, also correlates positively with the probability of adversaries initiating negotiations, but does not have a significant impact on the successful implementation of a ceasefire agreement (Walter 2002). Finally, Walter (2002) finds that military stalemates significantly increase the likelihood of negotiations as well as the implementation of a ceasefire.
While this final result supports the theoretical predictions surrounding “hurting stalemates,” Walter's coding of stalemates does not take into account the timing of the stalemate or the number of stalemates that occur throughout the course of conflict. We do not wish to discount this advance in measuring the concepts implied by bargaining models, as data that measure actual battle trends, no matter how crude, are preferable to proxies that simply capture state-level military strength. However, based on Walter's coding and analysis, we cannot draw any firm conclusions regarding the timing from stalemate to subsequent settlement. We therefore call on future research to attempt to more closely capture actual battle dynamics during civil wars, and to incorporate more information at the conflict-level or rebel group-level into empirical models of civil war termination.
Domestic-Level Factors and War Termination
Recent research suggests that domestic political conditions also influence war termination. Specifically, domestic political accountability, the domestic audience's expectations, and cost-sensitivity affect leaders' decisions to continue fighting versus settling on specific terms (Mattes and Morgan 2004). Along these lines, Goemans (2000) argues that the post-war fate of leaders influences their choice between terminating and continuing a war. The threat of severe punishment by domestic actors increases the costs of war losses for leaders of semi-repressive regimes, leading them to continue fighting a war they are losing in the hope of achieving victory. Thus, war termination does not follow strictly from battle trends.
Empirically, Goemans (2000) finds that losing mixed regimes suffer significantly more battle deaths than democratic or autocratic losers, and that wars fought against losing mixed regimes last, on average, almost twice as long as those fought against either democratic or autocratic losers. Taken together, these results suggest that mixed regime leaders are likely to sustain rather than terminate a losing war, and more generally, that regime type significantly influences war termination. Croco (2011) refines Goemans's work by arguing that the individual responsibility of leaders for involving their country in a war has important effects on war termination patterns. She finds that culpable leaders are distinctly more likely to continue wars in the face of domestic opposition and mounting losses, to achieve more favorable war outcomes, and are more likely to be punished domestically for poor wartime performance. Koch and Sullivan (2010) provide another take on the relationship between domestic politics and war termination, demonstrating that partisanship significantly affects democratic states' war termination decisions. Faced with declining approval for military interventions, their results demonstrate, right-leaning governments will continue the fight while left-leaning executives will be more likely to end their military engagements.
Domestic-level factors also affect civil war termination. State capacity, regime characteristics, and ethnic/religious divisions are theorized to influence war termination by influencing the balance of power, accountability of leaders, and stakes of conflict. Empirical results provide mixed support for these theories, however. First, DeRouen and Sobek (2004) find that increasing government army size increases the likelihood of termination, but that a strong state bureaucracy does not have this effect. Additionally, Walter (2002) finds strong executive constraints to have no significant impact on the negotiation or implementation of peace settlements. Finally, ethnic and religious divisions, by themselves, have no impact on the probability of negotiated settlements (Walter 2002; Svensson 2007), but when religious claims are a central component of the conflict, reaching a settlement becomes more difficult (Svensson 2007).
Finally, we know from the duration literature that civil wars with multiple rebel groups are more difficult to terminate than those involving only two actors (Cunningham 2006). However, recent research by Nilsson (2010) suggests that in the context of these multi-party conflicts, weak rebel groups that would not normally be able to extract concessions from a stronger state will have an increased probability of reaching a negotiated settlement with the government, suggesting that the presence of multiple rebel groups has important effects not only on the conflict as a whole, but also on the specific dynamics within each conflict dyad. This recent contribution represents an important step toward overcoming one of the major limitations of previous research on conflict termination – its state-centricity – and though we acknowledge the continued relative scarcity of data on sub-state challengers to governments, we advocate continued data collection on rebel group characteristics and behavior, and attempts to incorporate theory and analysis taking specific account of those characteristics and behavior into models of war termination in the future.
Victory/Defeat in Wars
Studies of war termination lead easily into examinations of the determinants of victory and defeat in war. Early empirical research on war outcomes focused on the relevance of military strength versus resolve (Maoz 1983) or willingness to suffer (Rosen 1972; see also Cannizzo 1980) for explaining initiator victory in interstate conflict. Results of this early research generally supported a basic rationalist argument, suggesting that more powerful states are more likely to win wars. However, recent scholarship in this field suggests, as in the duration and termination literatures, that domestic politics, strategies of force employment, military mechanization, and war aims mediate this basic relationship (Stam 1996; Reiter and Stam 2002; Biddle 2004; Lyall and Wilson 2009; Sullivan 2007). Empirical results show that strategy choices and methods of force employment have a greater impact on war outcomes than relative military capabilities (Stam 1996; Biddle 2004), that high levels of mechanization within state militaries actually increase the probability of state defeat in counterinsurgency wars (Lyall and Wilson 2009), and that weak states win more often when they employ an opposite-strategy approach in asymmetric conflicts (Arreguin-Toft 2006) or when the stronger party's war aims require high levels of target compliance (Sullivan 2007). Finally, high relative losses and increasing war duration decrease the likelihood of victory for war initiators, even if pre-war capabilities favored the aggressor (Slantchev 2004).
An important area of research that has fostered significant debate among scholars focuses on explaining the historical pattern of high rates of victory by democracies in interstate wars. While democracies win often, their ability to win wars is time sensitive; they become more likely to settle for a draw or suffer a loss as war duration increases beyond 18 months (Bennett and Stam 1998). The strongest explanations for the winning record of democracies center on their superior battlefield initiative and leadership, cooperative civil-military relations, and careful selection into wars they have a high probability of winning (Reiter and Stam 2002). Challenging these results both theoretically and empirically, however, Desch (2002) argues that “democracy hardly matters,” that relative power plays a more important role in explaining victory. While space limitations preclude a full discussion of this debate, it essentially comes down to the relative importance of realist-type power variables versus regime-type variables in explaining military victory; while scholars such as Lake (1992) and Reiter and Stam (2002) argue that regime type matters more, Desch (2002) asserts that relative power is the more important determinant of military victory.
Ultimately, we find Desch's objections to the relevance of democracy to be overstated, and his theoretical and empirical justifications to be largely unconvincing. First, Desch's analysis is biased against Reiter and Stam's argument because it is limited to dyads that Desch labels “fair fights,” that is, dyads with relatively equal military capabilities. This does not allow Desch to test the selection effect that Reiter and Stam discuss; i.e. that democracies select themselves into conflicts with weaker adversaries that they have a higher probability of winning against. Second, Desch fails to recognize that many of the realist variables he attributes the greatest explanatory power to are actually influenced by the foreign and military policies adopted by democratic leaders (Valentino et al. 2010). Democracy thus has both a direct and an indirect effect on war outcomes, and because Desch ignores the latter, he underestimates democracy's total impact. Finally, power variables' impacts may be overstated, as recent research demonstrates that military power's influence is conditional upon method of force employment and military mechanization (Biddle 2004; Lyall and Wilson 2009). Given these findings, renewed attempts to assess relative explanatory power should take into consideration the conditional nature of military strength's impact.
Theoretical arguments regarding civil war outcomes focus on state/rebel strength, positing that factors such as natural resource wealth, state military capacity, and third-party assistance influence relative combatant strength and thus war outcomes. Empirical studies find that increasing state military strength decreases the likelihood of negotiated settlement and increases the probability of government victory (Mason et al. 1999). Additionally, DeRouen and Sobek (2004) report that a strong government bureaucracy reduces the probability of rebel victory. Characteristics of the war itself also affect outcomes, with the probability of negotiated settlement increasing as war duration increases (Mason et al. 1999; Walter 2002), and high casualty rates increasing the likelihood of rebel victory (Mason et al. 1999).
Debate remains, however, over how third-party interventions affect civil war outcomes. UN intervention decreases the likelihood of victory by either side while increasing the probability of negotiated war terminations (DeRouen and Sobek 2004). This impact is time sensitive, as all types of UN interventions make negotiated settlement less likely if undertaken early in the war, but they have a positive impact on the likelihood of settlement as war duration increases (Mason et al. 1999). The impact of unilateral interventions, on the other hand, is less clear. While Regan (1996) finds intervention supporting the government to increase the likelihood of war termination, Gent (2008) finds military intervention in support of rebels to increase their chance of victory but that in support of governments to have no significant impact. The likely explanation for this discrepancy lies in the different models applied in the two analyses, and in the fact that Regan does not distinguish among different types of outcomes.
Post-War Peace Durability
Why do some conflicts reignite shortly after ending, while others end in stable, long-term peace? As with studies on war duration, termination, and outcomes, much of the literature on the stability of post-war peace grows from extensions of the bargaining model of war. For these scholars, recurrence is most likely under conditions that encourage the renegotiation of the terms of settlement, including post-war changes in the balance of power (Werner 1999) and unnatural ceasefires that artificially terminate fighting before both sides agree on the proper allocation of the spoils of war (Werner and Yuen 2005). Thus empirical results demonstrate that post-war changes in relative power significantly increase the likelihood of war recurrence (Werner 1999), wars ending in ties are more likely to recur than those ending in military victory (Fortna 2004c), and inconsistent battle trends greatly increase the likelihood of renewed hostilities (Werner and Yuen 2005). Additionally, third-party pressure prior to termination increases the likelihood of war recurrence (Werner and Yuen 2005).
Building from commitment problem models of war, Fortna (2004c) argues that strong peace agreements that enhance monitoring, incorporate punishment for defection, and reward cooperation help solve post-war commitment problems. Empirical results demonstrate that the strength of an agreement is negatively and significantly associated with the likelihood of war recurrence (Fortna 2004c). Specific measures within agreements, however, affect the durability of peace differently. For example, troop withdrawals and the establishment of demilitarized zones decrease the likelihood of war resumption, while arms control measures have no significant impact (Fortna 2004c: 176).
Post-war intervention is also expected to increase peace duration by ameliorating commitment problems, as peacekeepers act as a physical barrier and reduce security fears, uncertainty, and misperceptions between former adversaries (Fortna 2004b). Empirical results support this theoretical prediction (Fortna 2004b), and while the size of the force is not significant (Fortna 2004b), both monitoring and armed forces missions increase the durability of post-war peace.
The debate that remains in this literature is whether or not peace agreements can effectively mitigate the influence of relative power variables. Recent research by Lo et al. (2008) suggests that they cannot. They demonstrate that cease-fire agreement strength has almost no significant impact on post-war peace duration, while factors encouraging renegotiation receive partial support. While discrepancies in results may be in part attributable to differences in time periods covered, this result essentially confirms Werner and Yuen's (2005) finding that unnatural war termination invites resumption of conflict, regardless of the presence of strong cease-fire agreements.
If, at the end of a civil conflict, each side maintains its ability to wage war, issues of credibility can undermine the peace and cause the conflict to resume. Thus, wars ending in negotiated settlements are more likely to recur than those ending with a decisive victory because both sides have incentives to resume fighting in order to gain greater concessions. As a result, adversaries are incapable of credibly committing to uphold the terms of a peace agreement (Licklider 1995; Walter 2002).
This understanding of post-war peace in terms of the bargaining model's commitment problem explanation for war has led scholars to examine three primary avenues through which commitment problems might be overcome and peace maintained. First, partition has been advanced as a possible solution to post-war instability. The separation of warring factions is expected to reduce security fears by creating demographically separate, militarily defensible regions (Kaufmann 1996). Empirical evidence generally supports this strategy. While Sambanis (2000) finds partition has no influence, others demonstrate that partitions that successfully separate warring ethnic groups do significantly reduce the risk of renewed conflict (Johnson 2008) and those that do not achieve demographic separation increase the risk of renewed hostilities (Tir 2005). Further, relative to de facto separation, autonomy arrangements, or maintenance of a unitary state, partition is significantly less likely to lead to war recurrence (Chapman and Roeder 2007).
Second, the incorporation of power-sharing arrangements that guarantee the survival of each side into the post-war settlement is also expected to solve post-civil war commitment problems (Walter 2002). These arrangements allow adversaries to generate costly signals of their resolve to preserve the peace, thus ameliorating security fears (Hartzell and Hoddie 2003). Empirical results indicate that while military victories are significantly more likely to endure than negotiated settlements to civil wars (Licklider 1995; Fortna 2004a), given a negotiated settlement, the agreement's ability to ameliorate security concerns is positively associated with the preservation of peace. Thus, the more regulation of coercive and political power included in an agreement, and the greater the number of dimensions (political, territorial, military, economic) of power sharing specified, the more likely agreements are to endure (Hartzell and Hoddie 2003).
Finally, third-party intervention is expected to play a role in ameliorating the security dilemma arising from commitment problems in post-conflict states (Walter 2002; Fearon 2004). Empirical results confirm that third-party security guarantees are critical to the signing and successful implementation of peace settlements (Walter 2002). Once settlement has been reached, third-party guarantees and international peacekeeping establish punishments for defection (Walter 2002; Fortna 2008), thereby reducing incentives for and increasing costs of renewed conflict. Empirically, third-party guarantees have consistently been shown to increase the stability of post-war peace agreements (Walter 2002; Hartzell and Hoddie 2003). Recent research by Mattes and Savun (2010) similarly extols the virtues of third-party monitoring, but rather than focusing on commitment problems, examines the impact that information asymmetries have on conflict recurrence. They argue that significant uncertainty regarding relative capabilities often persists in post-war environments, and specific terms for third-party monitoring and verification of military information included in post-war peace agreements can significantly ameliorate post-war information asymmetries, thereby reducing the likelihood of renewed conflict.
While existing research has generated consistent results supporting the role of third parties in contributing to negotiated settlement durability, an important recent contribution by Toft (2009) challenges this relatively narrow focus of much of the existing literature. Toft argues that studies focused exclusively on negotiated settlements and third-party security guarantees neglect a large number of civil wars that either end through some other method or do not involve external actors. Taking a broader approach, she demonstrates, consistent with existing literature (Licklider 1995), that wars ending in victory, particularly rebel victory, are more stable than those ending in negotiated settlement. In addition, Toft's results demonstrate that security-sector reform is key to lasting post-war peace.
The Longer-Term Consequences of Wars
What are the political, economic, and social consequences of interstate and civil wars, and what explains these post-war conditions? As Rasler and Thompson (1992) recognized, the consequences of war are often far-reaching and complex. Given this complexity, much of the literature varies significantly in quality and coverage; while post-war political change and economic consequences have received significant attention from political scientists, the social and health-related consequences are less well-known.
Post-War Domestic Political Stability and Change
How does war affect political stability in post-war societies? Scholarship in this area focuses on both regime and leadership change, positing political accountability as a central mechanism in both cases. Interstate war induces internal revolution either indirectly – reforms pursued to address the pressures of successfully prosecuting a war meet with domestic resistance and revolt (Skocpol 1979) – or directly – poor wartime performance signals the incompetence of leaders, who, if unable to repress opposition, are removed for their policy failures (Goemans 2000; Bueno de Mesquita et al. 2003). Empirical results support the accountability argument, as war losses and increasing costs of war increase the likelihood of post-war leadership turnover (Bueno de Mesquita and Siverson 1995) as well as violent regime overthrow (Bueno de Mesquita et al. 1992).
In related work, scholars have analyzed externally imposed regime change, and found that losing states with accountable leaders are most likely to face foreign-imposed political change by war victors. Thus, Bueno de Mesquita et al. (2003) find that victor states with large WCs are significantly more likely than those with very small WCs to impose leadership changes in the losing state, and losing states with large WCs are significantly more likely to experience externally imposed leadership removal than those with very small WCs. They also find that victor states who remove a defeated leader are more likely to install a small WC system, if the losing state's pre-war institutions included a large WC.
A central focus of recent research has been the conditional relationship between war outcomes and regime type. In his seminal study, Goemans (2000) finds that leaders of mixed and democratic regimes are more likely to be removed from office as a result of moderate losses in war than are leaders of autocracies. These findings, however, have been challenged by recent scholarship. Colaresi (2004) finds no difference in the leadership turnover rates across all regimes types under conditions of moderate war losses, and Chiozza and Goemans (2004), employing a different measure of war outcomes and discounting the impact of termination over time, find that defeat in war is most costly for autocratic leaders and has no significant impact on tenure for democratic leaders.
In the civil war literature, most existing scholarship does not directly address the relationship between civil war and post-war political outcomes, instead focusing on conditions leading to the breakdown of post-war power-sharing arrangements and the resumption of war. Recent research on post-civil war democratization represents one important exception, as theories in this area explicitly focus on the link between war outcomes and the development of democratic institutions in the post-war period. Specifically, negotiated settlements are expected to facilitate democratization by requiring the inclusion of opposition groups in the decision-making process (Doyle and Sambanis 2006; Gurses and Mason 2008). Offering power-sharing provisions also facilitates democratization by generating costly signals that provide greater security for each side and create the stability necessary for democratization (Hoddie and Hartzell 2005), although empirical results suggest that only territorial power-sharing has the expected effect, whereas political, economic, and military power-sharing arrangements have no significant impact on democratization (Hoddie and Hartzell 2005).
The most contentious issue in this field is the relationship between international intervention and democratization. While some scholars expect intervention to facilitate post-war democratization by mitigating commitment problems and raising the costs of defection (Doyle and Sambanis 2006), others suggest it is used as a tool by interveners to impose amenable, generally non-democratic, institutions in the target country (Bueno de Mesquita and Downs 2006). Doyle and Sambanis (2006) find multidimensional UN missions incorporating economic reconstruction, institutional reform, and election oversight, to be significantly and positively correlated with the development of post-war democracy. However, Gurses and Mason (2008) challenge this finding, reporting no significant relationship between UN presence and post-war democratization, and Paris (2004) and Bueno de Mesquita and Downs (2006) show that peacebuilding missions and UN interventions actually decrease levels of democracy.
Ultimately, the relationship between interstate war and domestic political change has received greater attention than that between civil war and post-war politics. Currently, very few studies address the relationship between civil war and democratization, and none address leadership change as the interstate literature does. Many of the divergent findings in both the interstate and civil literatures can be attributed to differences in periods of study, specification of variables, and variable measurement. Future research should attempt to reconcile divergent findings, particularly regarding the interaction between war outcomes and regime type in the interstate war literature, and regarding the impact of third-party intervention in the civil war literature.
The Impact of War on the Economy
Interest in the economic consequences of war first grew out of attempts to explain the experiences of World War I and World War II. Early scholarship in this area thus tended to focus on one or more states' post-war growth following these conflicts (see Van Raemdonck and Diehl 1989; Rasler and Thompson 1992 for a review of the early literature). While much of this early literature agreed that war has a negative immediate impact, there was less consensus as to its longer-term consequences. One prominent cross-national empirical result from this period suggests that the extensive destruction of industrial capacity suffered by war losers actually allows for rapid growth in the post-conflict period; while losers suffer heavily during conflict, they are able to fully recover and catch up to expected GNP growth projections within two decades (Organski and Kugler 1980: 143). More recently, Koubi (2005) finds a positive correlation between duration and severity of war and post-war economic performance.
More recent scholarship theorizes the economic impact of conflict dyadically, focusing on the short-term impact of war on bilateral trade flows. Both liberal and realist theories predict the reduction of trade due to conflict, though they focus on different mechanisms to explain this observable phenomenon (Gowa and Mansfield 1993). Empirical evidence supports this prediction, demonstrating that war negatively impacts trade at the systemic level (Mansfield 1994), and bilaterally (Gowa and Mansfield 1993; Mansfield and Bronson 1997). This negative impact is short-lived, however, as dyadic trade flows appear to increase significantly in the post-war period (Barbieri and Levy 1999; Anderton and Carter 2001). While these results are relatively stable, the nation-level focus does a poor job of accurately representing the complexities of economic realities. Recent efforts to disaggregate trade begin to address this shortcoming, as they recognize the heterogeneity involved in aggregate measures and their inadequacy for explaining any phenomenon below a nation-level analysis. Early results suggest that different types of goods exhibit different causal relationships with trade, and that causality from conflict to trade is generally more pronounced with strategic goods (Reuveny and Kang 1998). It should be noted, however, that some scholars argue that war and trade are unrelated because the underlying poor relations between states will have already caused reduced bilateral trade flows. In other words, trade is suppressed ex ante as national governments (Morrow et al. 1998) and firms (Li and Sacko 2002) anticipate armed conflict.
The economic consequences of civil war have also received careful attention from scholars. Theoretical and empirical work examines the impact of civil war at the national, bilateral, and regional levels, focusing largely on instability and infrastructural breakdowns which lead to capital flight and ultimately economic downturn. More specifically, these theories argue that civil war destroys human resources, diverts public expenditures from output-enhancing activities, and causes infrastructural damage and capital flight, which all, in turn, decrease per capita income and reduce economic growth during and after war (Collier 1999; Collier et al. 2003; Murdoch and Sandler 2004). Bilateral trade relations are also expected to suffer due to civil war, as a shrinking overall economy, increased risk of disruptions, and unreliable infrastructure reduce the volume of international economic activity for the warring state (Bayer and Rupert 2004).
Empirical analyses have largely supported the broad theoretical prediction that civil war negatively affects domestic and bilateral economic conditions. Civil conflict reduces food production (Stewart et al. 2001) and increases capital flight both during and after war (Collier et al. 2003). Collier (1999) demonstrates that conflict also depresses GDP growth both during and after short civil wars, although after long conflicts he observes strong economic growth that is consistent with Organski and Kugler's (1980) findings for interstate war. Empirical evidence also reveals that the negative economic consequences of civil war extend beyond the borders of the warring state, with conflict depressing short-run economic growth in contiguous states and regional neighbors. This effect is ameliorated in the long run, however (Murdoch and Sandler 2004). Finally, civil war has also been shown to significantly reduce dyadic trade flows during war, an effect which is attenuated in the post-war period if the conflict ends in a negotiated settlement (Bayer and Rupert 2004).
Both the interstate and civil war literatures in this area have relatively well-developed research traditions. However, while both interstate and civil war theories convincingly explain the reduction of trade and economic downturn during conflict, the internal war literature much more explicitly theorizes the impact of war on the economy in the post-war period. The recent move to more micro-level, disaggregated economic data is promising for conflict studies. Analyses focused solely on aggregate measures of total trade, or nation-level measures of GDP per capita, mask the internal heterogeneity among different industries, firms, and regions. Analyses in the interstate literature that disaggregate various groups of goods (Reuveny and Kang 1998) and those in the civil war literature which examine war's short and long-term impact on the composition of GDP (Collier 1999), provide important examples for the direction future research should take.
Public Health Conditions in the Aftermath of Wars
Social scientists have recently begun to study the consequences of war for the post-war health and well-being of civilian populations. Theoretical arguments developed in this literature generally do not distinguish between interstate and civil war, instead developing mechanisms that apply to both types of conflict. The most direct public health consequence of war, of course, results from the killing and wounding of civilian populations. Scholars, however, argue that more indirect mechanisms cause longer-term public health problems as well. War, for example, is expected to undermine long-term public health by exposing populations to hazardous conditions through the movement of refugees and soldiers as vectors for disease (Ghobarah et al. 2003; Iqbal 2006), damaging health-related facilities and basic infrastructure (Li and Wen 2005; Plumper and Neumayer 2006), and reducing government spending and private investment on public health (Ghobarah et al. 2003).
Many empirical analyses, unfortunately, do not directly address the mechanisms outlined above. Overall, findings indicate that both civil and interstate war increase adult mortality in the short and long term (Li and Wen 2005), and decrease health adjusted life-expectancy in the short term (Iqbal 2006). Conflict severity is also influential; while low-level conflict has no significant effect on mortality rates, severe conflict increases mortality and decreases life-expectancy in the long run (Li and Wen 2005, Iqbal 2006, Hoddie and Smith 2009). Comparing the health impacts of interstate and civil wars, analysts have found interstate conflict to exert a stronger, negative impact on long-term mortality rates than civil war, despite the finding that civil war's immediate impact is more severe (Li and Wen 2005). Finally, many analysts have found that the negative, long-term effects of war are consistently stronger for women and children (Ghobarah et al. 2003; Plumper and Neumayer 2006) than for men.
This developing field provides important new insights into the civilian consequences of war, but remains underdeveloped in many respects. First, while some evidence suggests that civil and interstate war might affect public health differently, the mechanisms behind these differences require further elaboration. Recent research by Hoddie and Smith (2009) represent an important contribution in this respect, as it distinguishes between different conflict strategies, finding that conflicts involving extensive violence against noncombatants have more severe health consequences than those in which most fatalities are combat-related. Second, theoretical models are generally much more developed and sophisticated than the data used to test them. While data availability is limited, efforts should be made to more closely match theory and empirics.
Finally, analyses that employ disaggregated measures of health consequences (Ghobarah et al. 2003) provide a more thorough understanding of the specific consequences of war, and represent an important avenue for additional theoretical and empirical development. Iqbal and Zorn (2010) thus focus specifically on conflict's detrimental impact on the transmission of HIV/AIDS, while Iqbal (2010) examines the impact of conflict on many different health-based metrics, including infant mortality, health-associated life expectancy, fertility rates, and even measles and diphtheria vaccination rates. These studies represent important advances in the literature, which should be explored further in future research to disentangle the potentially complex health effects of civil and interstate conflict.
In this final section we highlight some of the contributions scholarship on the conduct and consequences of war has generated, as well as some of the gaps that remain to be addressed. First, this body of scholarship usefully complements the large and more traditional work of military historians who study international wars as well as the work of contemporary defense analysts who conduct careful policy analyses on relevant issues such as wartime military tactics and strategy as well as weapon system performance. The bargaining model of war has also proven a useful theoretical framework in which to structure and integrate theoretical analyses across different stages in the evolution of war.
Second, a number of studies in this body of work have contributed to the further development and testing of the democratic peace literature by extending the logic of political accountability models from questions of war onset to democratic wartime behavior. New dependent variables, including civilian targeting, imposition of regime change, the waging of war in ways designed to reduce military and civilian losses, and victory versus defeat in war have been analyzed. As a result, a number of new arguments and empirical findings have improved our understanding of how major security policy decisions by democratic leaders are influenced by domestic politics.
Third, this literature has advanced scholarship on international law and institutions by examining questions about compliance with the laws of war and the role played by the UN in terminating wars and maintaining a durable post-war peace. The impact of international law and institutions is much better understood on issues relating to international political economy, human rights, and international environmental governance than it is on international security affairs. As a result, studies of compliance with the laws of war, the design of ceasefire agreements, or international peace-building efforts address major gaps in existing literature.
Fourth, this new body of research has explicitly focused on the consequences of war for civilian populations, a relatively neglected topic in academic research. Research on questions such as the deliberate targeting of civilians during wars and the longer term economic and health consequences of war begin to address this surprising gap in research. As such, this new literature subjects the study of terrorism to more systematic social science methods and also challenges the common practice of restricting terrorism to non-state actors and groups when, in fact, governments have resorted to terrorist attacks on many occasions in the waging of war.
While this literature has advanced scholarship in many ways, there remain several theoretical and empirical gaps that future research should aim to address, two of which we highlight here. First, while research on interstate war duration and termination is more theoretically unified than its civil war counterpart, the dominance of the bargaining model in this literature is currently being challenged. Recent research on asymmetric conflict suggests that the basic tenets of the bargaining model may not hold for non-symmetric conflict, while research on force employment and mechanization suggest that traditional power measures exert a conditional impact at best. Additional research is thus needed to determine the conditions under which bargaining logic applies, and its relative importance in explaining wartime behavior and war outcomes.
Second, the accumulation of knowledge on civil war's conduct and consequences has lagged behind that on interstate war, partially because the civil war literature is younger, and partially because sub-national level data is only now becoming more readily available. While bargaining logic is often applied to civil war, we have little cross-national information on relative capabilities and battle trends, and thus a very limited understanding of the way in which these variables affect civil war duration and outcomes.
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