Thursday, November 18, 2010

Facts and Factoids about Civil Wars, Thoughtful Thursday

Thoughtful Thursday James Fearon, "Iraq's Civil War" in Foreign Affairs March April 2007, Volume 86 Issue Two and the Wikipedia article on Civil wars.

  1. There have been 125 civil wars since the end of World War II--as defined as those leading to over a thousand dead.
  2. Another 104 civil wars occurred between 1816 and 1997.
  3. Ninety of the Post World War II civil wars killed more than one thousand per year.
  4. Nine Civil wars since World War II have killed sixty-thousand or more. These include Iraq. They also include Algeria, Colombia, Guatemala, Peru and Sri LAnka.
  5. Twenty civl wars were ongoing as of 2007.
  6. According to Fearon, the average civil war has been ten years with a median of seven years. Wikipedia has the number at four years.
  7. From 1900 to 1944, civil wars only lasted 1.5 years. They occurred just as frequently as after 1944, just lasted less time.
  8. Since 1945, civil wars killed 25 million people.
  9. 55 of these civil wars were fought to control a central government.
  10. The remainder were fought for secession (like Biafra or the United States) or regional autonomy.
  11. Of the civil wars fought to control a government, 40% of the time the government crushed the rebels. 35% of the time the rebels won. Sixteen percent ended up in a pwer sharing agreement.
  12. Most civil wars are fought in a guerilla fashion and are rural. Thus, the United States model of organized armies fielded by states is unusual.
  13. Paul Collier and Anke Hoeffler, for the World Bank, argued that civil wars are primarily motivated by economic desires rather than identity issues. However identity issues did become important, and were a source to restart the conflict. I will report more on their work in a later Thoughtful Thursday.
  14. Having commodity exports dramatically increases the chance of civil war. A country with one-third of its gross product being commodities has a twenty percent chance of getting a civil war in a five-year period. Those countries lacking exportable commodities are spared the risk of civil war. (The tendency to create conflicts is part, but not all, of the resource course)
  15. And if there is a national diaspora, that dramatically increases (up to six times) the chance of a civil war. The diaspora finances the war. They are also likely to cause a flare up of the civil war, as the diaspora would often be nursing a grievance. (I had pointed out the possibility of giving the diaspora an explicit vote and say in my article on participatory-style Palestinian-Israeli Peace settlement.)
  16. If there is a ethnic group which has a majority with minority ethnic groups, then there is more chance of a civil war as the minority might feel oppressed.

James Fearon argues that power sharing requires that both sides be cohesive and that there is a group or set of leaders which truly speak for the side, rather than there being a group of militias or war lords.

The purpose of Mr. Fearon's article is to discuss Iraq situation in particular. But the wonderful statistics on the civil war phenomena and tragedy are why I am reviewing it here. Some of the data comes from the Wikipedia article.

Several weeks ago, I proposed a Constitution Construction Kit. The ratification procedure takes into account ethnic identity, so each group is and feels protected. Votes can use a similar principle--to pass legislation, one needs a certain percentage of the votes from each ethnic group. Or where there are several choices, the winner will be the choice that has the largest minima over all ethnic groups. Fact Sixteen shows this is sometimes a problem, but by no means the dominant factor in predicting ethnic conflicts. Forming a world government has much of the same problem as the world certainly has point-source resources unequally distributed.

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