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Liberal Social Reconstruction and the Resolution of Civil Wars in Central America

Abstract

The international community, in its efforts to overcome the security dilemmas that inhibit conflict resolution, need not always offer forceful security guarantees to combatants in civil wars. We argue that noncoercive, liberal international intervention can end civil wars. As suggested by a constructivist perspective and the insights of the democratic peace, the promotion of liberal democracy can successfully resolve civil wars by transforming the identities and institutions of the combatants. We develop this argument by examining the resolution of civil wars in Central America during the 1990s. Of the Central American cases, Nicaragua, the country subject to the strongest security guarantees, has been the least stable of the three. El Salvador and Guatemala, in contrast, have experienced more successful conflict resolution despite the lack of any forceful security guarantees by the international community. The termination of these civil wars can be best explained by the adherence of local actors to liberal democratic norms and institutions in response to a variety of international pressures and opportunities.

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International Organization
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