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The Critical Barrier to Civil War Settlement

Barbara F. Walter
International Organization
Vol. 51, No. 3 (Summer, 1997), pp. 335-364
Published by: The MIT Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2703607
Page Count: 30
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The Critical Barrier to Civil War Settlement
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Abstract

Between 1940 and 1990, enemies in civil wars have almost always failed to reach successful negotiated solutions to their conflicts unless an outside power guaranteed their safety during the ensuing transition period. I argue that civil war opponents avoid negotiated settlements because this requires them to relinquish important fall-back defenses at a time when no neutral police force and no legitimate government exist to help them enforce the peace. Knowing they will enter a period of intense vulnerability, neither side can credibly commit to an agreement that becomes less attractive once implemented. Evidence from forty-one civil wars between 1940 and 1990 shows that civil war adversaries do, in fact, require the added reassurance of outside security guarantees before they willfully implement peace treaties. This suggests that resolving the underlying issues over which civil wars are fought is not enough to bring peace to war-torn states. Both short-term security guarantees and long-term institutional arrangements seem necessary to ensure stable and durable settlements.

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