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Foreign-Imposed Regime Change, State Power and Civil War Onset, 1920–2004

  • Goran Peic and Dan Reiter


This article proposes that foreign-imposed regime changes (FIRCs) make civil war onset more likely when they damage state infrastructural power, as in the context of interstate war, and when they change the target’s political institutions as well as leadership. Using rare events logit to analyse civil war onset from 1920 to 2004, it is found that interstate war and institutional change are virtually necessary (though not sufficient) conditions for an FIRC to cause a civil war. Many control variables are included. The results are robust to different research design specifications; nevertheless, they cannot confirm that occupation troops make an FIRC more likely to spark civil war.



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2 Geddes, Barbara, ‘What Do We Know About Democratization After Twenty Years?’, Annual Review of Political Science, 2 (1999), 115144; Way, Lucan A., ‘Authoritarian State Building and the Sources of Regime Competitiveness in the Fourth Wave: The Cases of Belarus, Moldova, Russia, and Ukraine’, World Politics, 57 (2005), 231261.

3 Goemans, Hein, Skrede Gleditsch, Kristian and Chiozza, Giacomo, ‘Introducing Archigos: A Data Set of Political Leaders’, Journal of Peace Research, 46 (2009), 269283.

4 Werner, ‘Absolute and Limited War’.

5 Reiter, Dan, How Wars End (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2009).

6 On causes of FIRC, see Werner ‘Absolute and Limited War’; Morrow, James D., de Mesquita, Bruce Bueno, Siverson, Randolph M. and Smith, Alastair, ‘Selection Institutions and War Aims’, Economics and Governance, 7 (2006), 3152; Owen, John M. IV, ‘The Foreign Imposition of Domestic Institutions’, International Organization, 56 (2002), 375409.

7 Lo, Nigel, Nigel, , Hashimoto, Barry and Reiter, Dan, ‘Ensuring Peace: Foreign-Imposed Regime Change and Postwar Peace Duration, 1914–2001’, International Organization, 62 (2008), 717736; Werner, Suzanne, ‘The Precarious Nature of Peace: Resolving the Issues, Enforcing the Settlement, and Renegotiating the Terms’, American Journal of Political Science, 43 (1999), 912934; Enterline, Andrew J. and Greig, Michael, ‘Beacons of Hope? The Impact of Imposed Democracy on Regional Peace, Democracy, and Prosperity’, Journal of Politics, 67 (2005), 10751098.

8 Meernik, James, ‘United States Military Intervention and the Promotion of Democracy’, Journal of Peace Research, 33 (1996), 391402; Peceny, Mark, Democracy at the Point of Bayonets (University Park, Pa.: Penn State Press, 1999).

9 Enterline and Greig, ‘Beacons of Hope?’ Enterline, Andrew J. and Greig, Michael, ‘Against All Odds? The History of Imposed Democracy and the Future of Iraq and Afghanistan’, Foreign Policy Analysis, 4 (2008), 321347; de Mesquita, Bruce Bueno and Downs, George W., ‘Intervention and Democracy’, International Organization, 60 (2006), 627649; Easterly, William, Satyanath, Shanker and Berger, Daniel, Superpower Interventions and Their Consequences for Democracy: An Empirical Inquiry (Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution, 2008).

10 See also Enterline, Andrew J. and Greig, Michael, ‘Perfect Storms? Political Instability in Imposed Polities and the Futures of Iraq and Afghanistan’, Journal of Conflict Resolution, 52 (2008), 880915, pp. 885–6.

11 Mann, Michael, States, War and Capitalism (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1988), p. 5; Soifer, Hillel, ‘State Infrastructural Power: Approaches to Conceptualization and Measurement’, Studies in Comparative International Development, 43 (2008), 231251; Goodwin, Jeff, No Other Way Out: States and Revolutionary Movements, 1945–1991 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001).

12 Herbst, Jeffrey, States and Power in Africa: Comparative Lessons in Authority and Control (Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press, 2000).

13 Fearon, James D. and Laitin, David, ‘Ethnicity, Insurgency, and Civil War’, American Political Science Review, 97 (2003), 7590; Kalyvas, Stathis N., The Logic of Violence in Civil War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006); Goodwin, No Other Way Out.

14 David Soifer, Hillel, ‘The Redistributive Threat: State Power and the Effect of Inequality on Democracy’ (Brooks World Poverty Institute, University of Manchester, Working Paper No. 93, 2009).

15 Collier, Paul and Hoeffler, Anke, ‘Greed and Grievance in Civil War’, Oxford Economic Papers, 56 (2004), 563595; Thyne, Clayton L., ‘ABC’s, 123’s, and the Golden Rule: The Pacifying Effect of Education on Civil War, 1980–1999’, International Studies Quarterly, 50 (2006), 733754; Fearon and Laitin, ‘Ethnicity, Insurgency, and Civil War.’

16 Andreski, Stanislav, ‘On the Peaceful Disposition of Military Dictatorships’, Journal of Strategic Studies, 3 (1980), 310.

17 Skocpol, Theda, States and Social Revolutions: A Comparative Analysis of France, Russia, and China (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979), esp. p. 285.

18 Ricks, Thomas E., Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq (New York: Penguin, 2006); Diamond, Larry, Squandered Victory: The American Occupation and the Bungled Effort to Bring Democracy to Iraq (New York: Times Books, 2005).

19 Herbst, States and Power in Africa; Tilly, Charles and Blockmans, Wim P., eds, Cities and the Rise of States in Europe, A.D. 1000 to 1800 (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1994).

20 Ricks, , Fiasco, pp. 159–160; Diamond, Squandered Victory.

21 Dower, John W., Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II (New York: W. W. Norton, 1999), pp. 559560.

22 Edelstein, David M., Occupational Hazards: Success and Failure in Military Occupation (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2008).

23 Ricks, Fiasco.

24 Liberman, Peter, Does Conquest Pay? The Exploitation of Occupied Industrial Societies (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1996).

25 Bailey, Ronald H., Partisans and Guerrillas (Alexandria, Va.: Time-Life Books, 1978).

26 Horowitz, Michael and Reiter, Dan, ‘When Does Aerial Bombing Work? Quantitative Empirical Tests, 1917–1999’, Journal of Conflict Resolution, 45 (2001), 147173.

27 Lange, Matthew and Balian, Hrag, ‘Containing Conflict or Instigating Unrest? A Test of the Effects of State Infrastructural Power on Civil Violence’, Studies in Comparative International Development, 43 (2008), 314333.

28 Tilly, Charles, The Vendée (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1964); Hechter, Michael, Containing Nationalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000); Pape, Robert A., Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism (New York: Random House, 2005); Jackson Wade, Sara and Reiter, Dan, ‘Does Democracy Matter? Regime Type and Suicide Terrorism’, Journal of Conflict Resolution, 51 (2007), 329348.

29 Lange and Balian, ‘Containing Conflict or Instigating Unrest?’

30 Ricks, Fiasco.

31 Huntington, Samuel, Political Order in Changing Societies (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1968).

32 Hegre, Håvard, Ellingsen, Tanja, Gates, Scott and Petter Gleditsch, Nils, ‘Towards a Democratic Civil Peace? Democracy, Political Change, and Civil War, 1816–1992’, American Political Science Review, 95 (2001), 3348, p. 34.

33 Iraq Study Group Report (Washington, D.C.: US Institute for Peace, 2006).

34 Shain, Yossi and Linz, Juan J., Between States: Interim Governments and Democratic Transitions (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), esp. pp. 4142.

35 Enterline, and Greig, , ‘Perfect Storms?’, p. 885.

36 Shain, and Linz, , Between States, p. 14.

37 vom Hau, Matthias, ‘State Infrastructural Power and Nationalism: Comparative Lessons from Mexico and Argentina’, Studies in Comparative and International Development, 43 (2008), 334354.

38 Fearon and Laitin, ‘Ethnicity, Insurgency, and Civil War’; Lange and Balian, ‘Containing Conflict or Instigating Unrest?’ Thyne, ‘ABC’s, 123’s, and the Golden Rule’; Buhaug, Halvard and Ketil Rød, Jan, ‘Local Determinants of African Civil Wars, 1970–2001’, Political Geography, 25 (2006), 315335.

39 Fjelde, Hanne and de Soysa, Indra, ‘Coercion, Co-optation, or Cooperation? State Capacity and the Risk of Civil War, 1961–2004’, Conflict Management and Peace Science, 26 (2009), pp. 525.

40 Lai, Brian, ‘ “Draining the Swamp”: An Empirical Examination of the Production of International Terrorism, 1968–1998’, Conflict Management and Peace Science, 24 (2007), 297310; Lai, Brian and Slater, Dan, ‘Institutions of the Offensive: Domestic Sources of Dispute Initiation in Authoritarian Regimes’, American Journal of Political Science, 50 (2006), 113126.

41 Hegre et al., ‘Towards a Democratic Civil Peace?’ Fearon and Laitin, ‘Ethnicity, Insurgency, and Civil War’; Raymond Vreeland, James, ‘The Effect of Political Regime on Civil War: Unpacking Anocracy’, Journal of Conflict Resolution, 52 (2008), 401425.

42 Enterline and Greig, ‘Beacons of Hope?’

43 Fearon, and Laitin, , ‘Ethnicity, Insurgency, and Civil War’, p. 76. Our 1920–45 list of civil wars is congruent with the COW list of civil wars with the following exceptions. We drop Bulgaria 1923, El Salvador 1932, and Austria 1934. We add Russia 1921. We also follow Fearon and Laitin and code the Greek Civil War as starting in 1945 rather than 1944. Our post-1999 civil wars include Guinea 2000, Liberia 2000, Ivory Coast 2002, Sudan 2003, Afghanistan 2003, Iraq 2004, Pakistan 2004, and Thailand 2004.

44 Goemans, Gleditsch and Chiozza, ‘Introducing Archigos’. Note that we code the effect of FIRC over a five-year window, and therefore we also looked at FIRCs in the 1915–19 period. We included two other relevant FIRCs from this period, Greece 1917 and Albania 1916. We did not include the 1917 or 1918 Belgium FIRCs as indicated by Archigos, as they concerned change in who governed the occupied territories of Belgium, though the Belgian government was still recognized as the national leadership.

45 Note that Archigos excludes some microstates included by COW, such as Grenada. Those cases are excluded here.

46 Lo et al., ‘Ensuring Peace’. There are a very small handful of cases in which a state lost an interstate war, did not immediately suffer an FIRC, but then suffered an FIRC soon after (within the next five years). France in the early 1940s is one example. If the FIRC war and FIRC non-war variables are recoded such that the FIRC war variable is coded 1 if a state suffers an FIRC for any reason during the five years following a loss in an interstate war, the results do not change.

47 Enterline and Greig, ‘Beacons of Hope?’ The data from John Owen’s article, ‘The Foreign Imposition of Domestic Institutions’, include both successful and unsuccessful attempts at the foreign imposition of institutions, and hence inappropriate for use here.

48 Fearon and Laitin, ‘Ethnicity, Insurgency, and Civil War’.

49 Fearon and Laitin, ‘Ethnicity, Insurgency, and Civil War’; Collier and Hoeffler, ‘Greed and Grievance in Civil War’.

50 Maddison, Angus, The World Economy: Historical Statistics (Paris: OECD, 2003).

51 Inflation conversion factors are employed where necessary.

52 Fearon and Laitin, ‘Ethnicity, Insurgency, and Civil War’. Polity data available at 〈downloaded 20 October 2008〉.

53 Vreeland, ‘The Effect of Political Regime on Civil War’.

54 Fearon, and Laitin, , ‘Ethnicity, Insurgency, and Civil War’, p. 81n.

55 Atlas Narodov Mira (Moscow: Glavnoe upravlenie geodezii I kartografii, 1964); Cederman, Lars-Erik and Girardin, Luc, ‘Beyond Fractionalization: Mapping Ethnicity onto Nationalist Insurgencies’, American Political Science Review, 101 (2007), 173186, provide an alternate measure of ethnicity. However, data on this measure are limited to Eurasia and North Africa only, and to the 1945–99 period. For a critique of this measure, see Fearon, James D., Kasara, Kimuli and Laitin, David D., ‘Ethnic Minority Rule and Civil War Onset’, American Political Science Review, 101 (2007), 187193.

56 King, Gary and Zeng, Langche, ‘Explaining Rare Events in International Relations’, International Organization, 55 (2001), 693715.

57 Fearon and Laitin, ‘Ethnicity, Insurgency, and Civil War’; Vreeland, ‘The Effect of Political Regime on Civil War’.

58 Multicollinearity among the independent variables was generally low, rising above 0.4 only for the correlation between the Democracy variable and the Development variables (0.49).

59 Edelstein, Occupational Hazards.

60 We also ran the analysis with the ORIG/Enterline/Grieg measure of imposed political institutional change, and it was not statistically significantly related to civil war onset.

61 Clodfelter, Micheal, Warfare and Armed Conflicts: A Statistical Reference to Casualty and Other Figures, 1500–2000, 2nd edn (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2002), p. 675.

62 Note that there are no cases of a non-war FIRC installing a democracy being followed by civil war onset, precluding us from including non-war-FIRC-install democracy as an additional dummy variable. The non-existence of such cases is more evidence that war and institutional changes are necessary conditions for making civil war onset more likely.

63 An interaction of Ethnic Fractionalization × Democracy is statistically significant, but its inclusion does not change the results on the FIRC variables. It does make the Ethnic Fractionalization variable insignificant, and the Democracy variable significant, though.

64 Fazal, Tanisha M., State Death: The Politics and Geography of Conquest, Occupation, and Annexation (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2007).

65 The added country-year cases include Netherlands 1941–44, Belgium 1941–44, France 1943, Poland 1940–44, Austria 1939–44, Czechoslovakia 1940–44, Albania 1940–43, Yugoslavia 1942–43, Greece 1942–43, Norway 1941–44, Denmark 1941–44, Ethiopia 1937–40, Estonia 1941–45, Latvia 1941–45 and Lithuania 1941–45. Among these new cases, there was civil war onset only in Yugoslavia 1942.

66 MacFie, A. L., ‘The British Decision Regarding the Future of Constantinople, November 1918–January 1920’, Historical Journal, 18 (1975), 391400.

67 Baker, James A. III with Defrank, Thomas M., The Politics of Diplomacy: Revolution, War and Peace, 1989–1992 (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1995), pp. 436438; Woodward, Bob, State of Denial (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2006), pp. 1112; Ricks, Fiasco.

68 Carter, David and Signorino, Curtis S., ‘Back to the Future: Modeling Time Dependence in Binary Data’, Political Analysis, 18 (2010), 271292.

69 Edelstein, Occupational Hazards: Success and Failure in Military Occupation; Mann, Michael, Incoherent Empire (London: Verso, 2003).

* Department of Political Science, Emory University (email: ). Earlier versions of this article were presented at the 2008 annual meeting of the Peace Science Society (International) in Claremont, California; Emory University; the University of Maryland; and the University of Minnesota. For helpful comments, thanks to Tom Remington, Jennifer Gandhi and James Vreeland.

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Foreign-Imposed Regime Change, State Power and Civil War Onset, 1920–2004

  • Goran Peic and Dan Reiter


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