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Too Much of a Bad Thing? Civilian Victimization and Bargaining in Civil War

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 April 2013


While studies of the motives for intentional insurgent violence against civilians are now common, relatively little academic research has focused on the impact of victimization on conflict processes or war outcomes. This article addresses this gap in the literature. Specifically, the authors examine the influence of civilian victimization on bargaining between the regime and insurgents during a civil war. A curvilinear relationship between the level of civilian victimization used by insurgents and the likelihood that conflict ends in negotiated settlement is posited. The probability of settlement is highest for groups that engage in a moderate level of civilian killing but declines at particularly high levels. A competing risk analysis using monthly conflict data on African civil wars between 1989 and 2010 supports this argument.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2013 

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School of Politics and Global Studies, Arizona State University; Department of Political Science, University at Buffalo, SUNY (emails:; The authors, whose names are listed in reverse alphabetical order, wish to thank Christian Davenport, Emily Ritter, Jacqueline Demerrit, Scott Wolford, Christopher Sullivan, Jeff Carter, Susan Allen, Megan Shannon, and Jon Winburn for their helpful suggestions. They are also grateful for the comments provided by the three anonymous reviewers. On-line appendix and dataset available at Data set.


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