Miller Center

Noel Anderson

Political Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The Geopolitics of Civil War: External Military Aid, Competitive Intervention, and Duration of Intrastate Conflict

Anderson photo

While civil wars proliferated during the Cold War, their numbers have declined in the post-Cold War period. What is more, new conflicts breaking out since 1990 have much shorter average durations than their Cold War predecessors. What explains changing trends in the incidence and duration of civil war? To answer this question, Anderson’s dissertation explores how inter-state competition affects intra-state conflict. He argues that the varying prevalence of what he calls competitive interventions—two-sided, simultaneous military assistance from different third-party states to both government and rebel combatants—is central to the decline in war, and he develops a theory of competitive intervention that models and explains why this form of external military aid prolongs violent intrastate conflicts. The theory explores the micro-foundations of military aid and civil war; explains the unique strategic dilemmas competitive interventions entail for third-party interveners; and accounts for the decline in the incidence and duration of civil war by linking changes at the level of the international system to variation in the prevalence of competitive intervention over time. To test his theory, Anderson combines statistical analyses of a novel time-series dataset of military aid to civil war combatants (1975-2009) with detailed case studies, fieldwork, and archival research. His results shed new light on the international dimensions of civil war, address ongoing debates concerning the utility of military aid as a foreign policy instrument, identify which forms of intervention facilitate—and which impede—conflict management strategies, and inform policies prescriptions aimed at resolving today’s most violent conflicts.

Fellowship year: 2016

Mentor: Stathis N. Kalyvas, Yale University

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