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This article questions the prevalent argument that civil wars have fundamentally changed since the end of the cold war. According to this argument, “new” civil wars are different from “old” civil wars along at least three related dimensions—they are caused and motivated by private predation rather than collective grievances and ideological concerns; the parties to these conflicts lack popular support and must rely on coercion; and gratuitous, barbaric violence is dispensed against civilian populations. Recent civil wars, therefore, are distinguished as criminal rather than political phenomena. This article traces the origins of this distinction and argues that it is based on an uncritical adoption of categories and labels, combined with deficient information on “new” civil wars and neglect of recent historical research on “old” civil wars. Perceived differences between post—cold war conflicts and previous civil wars may be attributable more to the demise of readily available conceptual categories caused by the end of the cold war than to the end of the cold war per se.
1 Recent research shows that the prevalence of civil wars in the 1990s is attributable to a steady accumulation of conflicts since the 1950s, not the end of the cold war. See James D. Fearon and David D. Laitin, “Ethnicity, Insurgency, and Civil War” (Paper presented at the Laboratory in Comparative Ethnic Processes, Duke University, 2000).
2 Brubaker Rogers and Laitin David D., “Ethnic and Nationalist Violence,” Annual Review of Sociology 24 (1998).
3 David Steven R., “Internal War: Causes and Cures,” World Politics 49 (July 1997).
4 Fearon and Laitin (fn. 1); Nicholas Sambanis, “Partition as a Solution to Ethnic War: An Empirical Critique of the Theoretical Literature,” World Politics 52 (July 2000).
5 Voigt F. A, The Greek Sedition (London: Hollis and Carter, 1949), 68–69.
6 See Enzensberger Hans Magnus, Civil Wars: From L.A. to Bosnia (New York: The New Press, 1994); Kaplan Robert D., Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History (New York: Vintage, 1994); idem, “The Coming Anarchy: How Scarcity, Crime, Overpopulation, and Disease are Rapidly Destroying the Social Fabric of our Planet,” Atlantic Monthly 44 (February 1994); Ignatieff Michael, The Warrior's Honor: Ethnic War and the Modern Conscience (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1998).
7 Edward N. Lutwack, “Great-powerless Days,” Times Literary Supplement, June 16, 1995; Holsti Kalevi J., The State, War, and the State of War, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996); Gray Chris Hables, Post-Modern War: The New Politics of Conflicts (London: Routledge, 1997); Duffield Mark, “Post-modern Conflict: Warlords, Post-adjustment States and Private Protection,” Civil Wars 1, no. 1 (1998); Keen David, “The Economic Functions of Violence in Civil Wars,” Adelphi Paper 320 (1998); Kaldor Mary, New and Old Wars: Organized Violence in a Global Era (Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press, 1999); Berdal Mats and Malone David M., eds, Greed and Grievance: Economic Agendas in Civil Wars (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 2000).
8 Grossman Herschel I., “Kleptocracy and Revolution,” Oxford Economic Papers 51, no. 2 (April 1999); Paul Collier, “Rebellion as a Quasi-Criminal Activity,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 44, no. 6 (2000); Collier Paul, “Economic Causes of Civil Conflict and their Implications for Policy,” in Crocker Chester A., Hampson Fen Osier, and Aall Pamela, eds., Managing Global Chaos (Washington D.C.: U.S. Institute of Peace, forthcoming); Paul Azam and Anke Hoeffler, “Looting and Conflict between Ethno-Regional Groups: Lessons for State Formation in Africa” (Paper presented at the World Bank Center for International Studies Workshop on “The Economics of Civil War,” Princeton University, March 18–19, 2000); Paul Collier and Anke Hoeffler, “Justice-Seeking and Loot-Seeking in Civil War,” Manuscript, World Bank, 1999); idem, “Greed and Grievance in Civil War,” World Bank Policy Research Paper 2355 (Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2000).
9 Kaldor (fn. 7), 66.
10 A United Nations official described the population's desire for amnesty in exchange for peace as representing a peculiarly African understanding of justice. See Remy Ourdan, “Le Prix de la Paix,” Le Monde, December 2, 1999. Interestingly, the publication of this article coincided with the announcement of a peace agreement in Northern Ireland. Critics of the Irish agreement were in turn criticized by the same media that condemned the Sierra Leone deal, on the exact opposite grounds. For example, tie French newspaper Le Monde (December 4, 1999), which condemned the amnesty agreement in Sierra Leone praised the British journalist Hugo Young, who supported the participation in the new government of a former IRA commander suspected of murders, since without him, “there would be no peace agreement.” The peace agreement in Sierra Leone was also condemned on pragmatic grounds. It was pointed out that “from the rebels' point of view, why have peace when it is the absence of law and order that enables one to loot?... In fact the rebels never had any intention of honoring the peace accord; they were only interested in waging war and looting the country.” William Reno, “When Peace Is Worse than War,” New York Times, May 11, 2000. Yet could not the same argument be made about the peace agreement in Mozambique, which has since been widely hailed as a success story?
11 Some scholars collapse many of these dimensions into one, while others emphasize some dimensions at the expense of others. Kaldor (fn. 7) seems to compare new civil wars with old conventional wars. Keen (fn. 7) argues that looting generates “rational” rather than gratuitous violence. The claim that new civil wars are motivated by looting is sometimes made in contradistinction to their purported ethnic motivation—while sometimes ethnic motivations and looting are merged. For the former view see Annan Kofi, “Facing the Humanitarian Challenge: Towards a Culture of Prevention,” UNDPI (New York, 1999); for the latter view see Mueller John, “The Banality of ‘Ethnic War,’” International Security 25, no. 1 (2000).
12 Kaldor (fn. 7), 6.
13 Collier and Hoeffler, 2000 (fn. 8), 2–3; Collier (fn. 8); Collier and Collier and Hoeffler produce a number of mixed greed-grievance models in which rebellion begins as a collective grievance and is sustained by greed. All models, however, presuppose this dichotomous distinction. According to a World Bank Press Release: “New World Bank research suggests that civil wars are more often fueled by rebel groups competing with national governments for control of diamonds, coffee, and other valuable primary commodities, rather than by political, ethnic, or religious differences...‘Civil wars are far more likely to be caused by economic opportunities than by grievance, and therefore certain rebel groups benefit from the conflict and have a very strong interest in initiating and sustaining it,’ says [Paul] Collier.” World Bank, “Greed for Diamonds and Other ‘Lootable’ Commodities Fuels Civil Wars” (News Release 2000/419/S, http://wbln0018.worldbank.org/news/pressrelease.nsf, accessed April 20, 2001).
14 Annan (fn. 11).
15 Enzensberger (fn. 6), 22.
16 Kaplan (fn. 6).
17 Enzensberger (fn. 6), 30. Emphasis in original.
18 Ibid., 20–1,29.
19 Richards Paul, Fighting for the Rain Forest: War, Youth, and Resources in Sierra Leone (Oxford: James Currey, 1996), xvii. In his study of the war in Mozambique, anthropologist Christian Geffray castigates “journalists who cannot investigate [the war] on the ground,” and international media that reproduce “information and analyses” reflecting the views of “urban elites, national intellectuals, and foreigners.” Geffray Christian, La cause des armes au Mozambique: Anthropologie d'une guerre civile (Paris: Karthala, 1990), 19.
20 Gourevitch Philip, We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rwanda (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1998), 182.
21 Although the direction of causality may be irrelevant for predicting the likelihood of civil wars, it matters when deriving empirical, theoretical, and normative implications about civil wars.
22 Collier and Hoeffler (fn. 8) acknowledge the complexity of the possible connections between “greed” and “grievance.”
23 Richards (fn. 19).
24 Romero Mauricio, “Changing Identities and Contested Settings: Regional Elites and the Paramilitaries in Colombia,” International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society 14, no. 1 (2000); Duyvesteyn Isabelle, “Contemporary War: Ethnic Conflict, Resource Conflict or Something Else?” Civil Wars 3, no. 1 (2000); Besteman Catherine, “Violent Politics and the Politics of Violence: The Dissolution of the Somali Nation-State,” American Ethnologist 23, no. 3 (1996).
25 A psychologist who treated hundreds of fighters in the Liberian Civil War drew the following profile: “He is someone usually between 16 and 35 years of age, who may have decided to become a combatant for several reasons: to get food for survival, to stop other fighters from killing his family and friends, was forced to become a combatant or be killed, sheer adventurism etc.” E. S. Grant, quoted in Ellis Stephen, The Mask of Anarchy: The Destruction of Liberia and the Religious Dimension of an African Civil War (New York: New York University Press, 1999), 127.
26 Peters Krijn and Richards Paul, “‘Why We Fight’: Voices of Youth Combatants in Sierra Leone,” Africa 68, no. 2 (1998).
27 Young Tom, “A Victim of Modernity? Explaining the War in Mozambique,” in Rich Paul B. and Stubbs Richard, eds., The Counter-Insurgent State: Guerrilla Warfare and State-Building in the Twentieth Century (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1997), 136–37; Weigert Stephen L., Religion and Guerrilla Warfare in Modern Africa (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996); Ellis (fn. 25); Henriksen Thomas H., Revolution and Counterrevolution: Mozambique's War of Independence, 1964—1974 (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1983), 76.
28 Richards (fn. 19), xix.
29 Chingono Mark F., The State, Violence, and Development: The Political Economy of War in Mozambique, 1975–1992 (Aldershot: Avebury, 1996), 55.
30 See, for example, Reno (fn. 10).
31 Sheridan James E., Chinese Warlord: The Career of Feng Yü-hsiang (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1966), 1.
32 Ibid., 19.
33 Augustine Saint, The City of God, trans. John Healey (London: J. M. Dent; New York: E. P. Dutton, 1931), IV:iv.
34 Ellis Stephen, “Liberia 1989–1994: A Study of Ethnic and Spiritual Violence,” African Affairs 94, no. 375 (1995), 165–197; Duffield (fn. 7); Geffray (fn. 19).
35 Reno William, Warlord Politics and African States (Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner, 1998).
36 Li Lincoln, The Japanese Army in North China, 1937—1941: Problems of Political and Economic Control (Tokyo: Oxford University Press, 1975), 229; Wou Odoric Y.K., Mobilizing the Masses: Building Revolution in Henan (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1994), 154; Figes Orlando, A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution, 1891–1924 (New York: Penguin, 1997), 666–67.
37 Cribb Robert, Gangsters and Revolutionaries: The Jakarta People's Militia and the Indonesian Revolution, 1945–1949 (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1991), 54.
38 Brovkin Vladimir M., Political Parties and Social Movements in Russia, 1918–1922 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994), 121.
39 Moyar Mark, Phoenix and the Birds of Prey: The CIA's Secret Campaign to Destroy the Viet Cong (Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 1997), 168.
40 Cobb Richard, The People's Armies (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987), 5.
41 Tilly Charles, The Vendée (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1964), 6.
42 It turns out that political violence is not directly caused by individual, radical ideologies even in urban environments, as Delia Porta shows in her study of Italian and German terrorist organizations. See Porta Donatella Delia, Social Movements, Political Violence, and the State: A Comparative Analysis of Italy and Germany (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 196. As Barrington Moore puts it: “The discontented intellectual with his soul searchings has attracted attention wholly out of proportion to his political importance, partly because these searchings leave behind them written records and also because those who write history are themselves intellectuals.” Moore Barrington, Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Lord and Peasant in the Making of the Modern World (Boston: Beacon Press, 1966), 480
41 Lan David, Guns and Rain: Guerrillas and Spirit Mediums in Zimbabwe (London: James Currey, 1985). See also Henriksen (fn. 27), 76, for Mozambique.
44 Jankowski Paul, Communism and Collaboration: Simon Sabiam and Politics in Marseille, 1919—1944 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989), ix, xii.
43 Dallin Alexander, Mavrogordato Ralph, and Moll Wilhelm, “Partisan Psychological Warfare and Popular Attitudes,” in Armstrong John A., ed., Soviet Partisans in World War II (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1964), 336.
45 Swedenburg Ted, Memories of Revolt: The 1936–1939 Rebellion and the Palestinian National Past (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995), 169–70.
47 McKenna Thomas M., Muslim Rulers and Rebels: Everyday Politics and Armed Separatism in the Southern Philippines (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), 194–95. Collective grievances tend to be expressed only under restrictive conditions. SeeWood Elisabeth, “Pride in Rebellion: Insurrectionary Collective Action in El Salvador” (Manuscript, New York University, Spring 2001).
48 Grossman Dave, On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1995), 89–90; Laqueur Walter, Guerilla Warfare: A Historical and Critical Study (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction, 1998), 272. Obviously, this does not answer the question of how and why an organization capable of providing such training and leadership emerges.
49 Stark Rodney, The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries (New York: Harper Collins, 1997), 14–17.
50 Ibid.; Wickham-Crowley Timothy, Exploring Revolution: Essays on Latin American Insurgency and Revolutionary Theory (Armonk, N.Y.: M. E. Sharpe, 1991), 152; Petersen Roger, Resistance and Rebellion: Lessons from Eastern Europe (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001).
51 Hart Peter, The I.R.J. and Its Enemies: Violence and Community in Cork, 1916–1923 (New York: Clarendon Press, 1999), 209, 264.
52 Kaldor (fn. 7), 8.
53 Nordstrom Carolyn, “The Backyard Front,” in Nordstrom Carolyn and Martin JoAnn, eds., The Paths to Domination, Resistance, and Terror (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), 271–72.
54 Daniel Pécaut, “En Colombie, une guerre contre la société,” Le Monde, October 10, 1999. Similar statements are commonly made about Sierra Leone. See, for example, Reno (fn. 35).
55 In a subsequent account, Nordstrom provided a more nuanced portrayal of the situation in Mozambique. Nordstrom Carolyn, “War on the Front Lines,” in Nordstrom Carolyn and Robben Antonius C. G. M., eds., Fieldwork under Fire: Contemporary Studies of Violence and Survival (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995), 142.
56 Young (fn. 27); Chingono (fn. 29). Chingono also points out that “while Renamo would not have survived without external support, exclusive focus on external factors equally distorts the reality and denies the Mozambicans' own history; they are reduced to mere passive victims of manipulations and machinations of powerful external forces.”
57 Similar observations have been made about Liberia and Sierra Leone. See Ellis (fn. 34); Richards (fn. 19).
58 See, for example, Stoll David, Rigoberta Menchú and the Story of All Poor Guatemalans (Boulder: Westview, 1999); Carlos Ivan Degregori, “Harvesting Storms: Peasant Rondas and the Defeat of Sendero Luminoso in Ayacucho,” in Stern Steven J., ed., Shining and Other Paths: War and Society in Peru, 1980–1995 (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1998), 128–57. The same is true for anticolonial wars in Africa. See Kriger Norma, Zimbabwe's Guerrilla War: Peasant Voices (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992).
59 Pike Douglas, Viet Cong: The Organization and Techniques of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1966).
60 Kaldor (fn. 7), 8.
61 Hart (fn. 51), 220.
62 Ibid., 265–66.
63 Ibid., 266.
64 “The hostility between the Phu Longs and Binh Nghia was generations old, focused on a feud over fishing rights. It was natural that the Phu Longs assumed economic as well as political power when the Viet Cong were on the rise and this was done at the direct expense of fishermen from Binh Nghia. So later when the Viet Cong came across the river to spread the gospel, there were many in Binh Nghia who resented them and any cause they represented. The police chiefs had fed this resentment with money and had built a spy network.” SeeWest F. J. Jr., The Village (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985), 146–47.
65 “The participation of armed Shining Path cadres on the side of one of the communities in a massive confrontation against a confederation of rival communities provoked a rupture with the latter, who decided to turn over two senderista cadres they had captured in the scuffle to the authorities in Huancayo. This action provoked Shining Path reprisals, which culminated in the execution of thirteen peasant leaders. The victims were kidnapped from their communities and assassinated in the central plaza of Chongos Alto.” Nelson Manrique, “The War for the Central Sierra,” in Stern (fn. 58), 204–5.
66 Hinton William, Shenfan: The Continuing Revolution in a Chinese Village (New York: Vintage Books, 1984), 527.
67 Marks Robert, Rural Revolution in South China: Peasants and the Making of History in Haifeng County, 1570–1930 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1984), 263.
68 Close David H., “Introduction,” in Close David H., ed., The Greek Civil War, 1943–1950: Studies in Polarization (London and New York: Routledge, 1993), 1–31; Geffray (fn. 19).
69 Paul Benjamin D. and Demarest William J., “The Operation of a Death Squad in San Pedro la Laguna,” in Carmack Robert M., ed., Harvest of Violence: The Maya Indians and the Guatemalan Crisis (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1988), 128, 150.
70 Hart (fn. 51), 177; McKenna (fn. 47), 162; Kriger (fn. 58), 8; Hinton (fn. 66), 527; Marks (fn. 67), 264.
71 Young (fn. 27), 138–42; Chingono (fn. 29), 16; Swedenburg (fn. 46), 131–33; Wickham-Crowley (fn. 50), 131.
72 See, for example, McKenna (fn. 47); Swedenburg (fn. 46); Paul and Demarest (fn. 69).
73 Mueller (fn. 11); Paul and Demarest (fn. 69); Henderson James D., When Colombia Bled: A History of the Violencia in Tolima (University, Ala.: University of Alabama Press, 1985).
74 Tilly (fn. 41), 191.
75 Stoll (fn. 58).
76 Richards (fn. 19), 6; Hamoumou Mohand, Et Us sont devenus Harkis (Paris: Fayard, 1993); Gross Jan T., Revolution from Abroad: The Soviet Conquest of Poland's Western Ukraine and Western Belorussia (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1988).
77 Berry Mary Elizabeth, The Culture of Civil War in Kyoto (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), xxi.
78 Lucas Colin, “Themes in Southern Violence after 9 Thermidor,” in Lewis Gwynne and Lucas Colin, eds., Beyond the Terror: Essays in French Regional and Social History, 1794—1815 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), 152–94.
79 Harding Susan F., Remaking Ibieca: Rural Life inAragon under Franco (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1984), 59.
80 Kaldor (fn. 7), 93.
81 Kalyvas Stathis N., “Wanton and Senseless? The Logic of Massacres in Algeria,” Rationality and Society 11, no. 3 (1999), 243–85.
82 Jean Perlez, “Kosovo Clan's Massacre Stands as Gruesome Evidence of Serb Revenge,” International Herald Tribune, November 16, 1998.
83 Norimitsu Onishi, “Sierra Leone Measures Terror in Severed Limbs,” New York Times, August 22, 1999.
84 Nordstrom (fn. 55), 142.
85 Enzensberger (fn. 6), 20.
86 See, for example, Ignatieff (fn. 6), 5.
87 Enzensberger (fn. 6), 15.
88 Frijda Nico H., “The Lex Talionis: On Vengeance,” in Goozen Stephanie H.M. Van, Poll Nanne E. Van de, and Sergeant Joseph, eds., Emotions: Essays on Emotion Theory (Hillsdale, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1994), 267.
89 Thucydides depicted the civil war there as a situation in which “there was death in every shape and form. And, as usually happens in such situations, people went to every extreme and beyond it.” Thucydides , History of the Peloponnesian War, trans. Rex Warner (Harmondsworth, N.Y.: Penguin Books, 1977), 241. One easily finds in the historical literature sentiments emphasizing the inherent cruelty and ravaging nature of civil war. See Petitfrère Claude, La Vendée et les Vendéens (Paris: Gallimard/Julliard, 1981), 50; and Gunther John, Behind the Curtain (New York: Harper, 1949), 129.
90 Dupuy Roger, Les Chouans (Paris: Hachette, 1997), 237.
91 Staël Madame de, Des circonstances actuelles qui peuvent terminer la révolution et des principes qui doivent fonder la répuhlique en France, ed. Omacini Lucia (1798; Geneva: Librairie Droz, 1979), 10.
92 Rosenberg Tina, Children of Cain: Violence and the Violent in Latin America (New York: Penguin, 1991), 7.
93 See, for example, Cueva Julio de la, “Religious Persecution, Anticlerical Tradition, and Revolution: On Atrocities against the Clergy during the Spanish Civil War,” Journal of Contemporary History 33, no. 3 (1998); Figes (fn. 36); Brovkin (fn. 38).
94 Kalyvas (fn. 81), 265–77; Paul and Demarest (fn. 69); Degregori (fn. 58).
95 Borovik Artyom, The Hidden War: A Russian Journalist's Account of the Soviet War in Afghanistan (London: Fiber and Faber, 1991), 25.
96 Pino H. Ponciano Del, “Family, Culture, and ‘Revolution’: Everyday Life with Sendero Luminoso,” in Stern Steve J., ed. Shining and Other Paths: War and Society in Peru, 1980–1995 (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1998), 171.
97 Cohn Ilene and Goodwin-Gill Guy S., Child Soldiers: The Role of Children in Armed Conflict (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994); Armony Ariel C., “The Former Contras,” in Walker Thomas W., ed., Nicaragua without Illusions (Wilmington, Del.: Scholarly Resources), 207.
98 White Lynn T. III, Policies of Chaos: The Organizational Causes of Violence in China's Cultural Revolution (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1989), 280–81.
99 Zulaika Joseba, Basque Violence: Metaphor and Sacrament (Reno and Las Vegas: University of Nevada Press, 1988).
100 Crozier Brian, The Rebels: A Study of Post-war Insurrections (Boston: Beacon Press, 1960), 158.
101 Kalwas (fn. 81).
102 “By virtue of the numbers involved, the elimination of its supporters could not be achieved by simply picking off a handful of local party officials. Such violence was less evident in areas where FRELIMO influence and presence had been eliminated and RENAMO was relatively well established. In the Gorongosa region there was reasonably good and co-operative coexistence with the civilian population and little apparent fear. The RENAMO presence in the Zambezia seems to have been less brutal and better organised from its first arrival in the area.” Young (fn. 27), 132–33.
103 Richards (fn. 18), xx.
104 “Such atrocities are not part of traditional warfare in Africa. They are the result of an orchestrated strategy to terrorize civilians, carried out by troops trained in such barbarous techniques. The systematic pattern of these crimes, as well as the scale of the terror, do not support claims that the rebels are retreating, isolated and beyond control. Field reports indicate that rebel movements could not take place without communication, control and supplies from the outside. Crimes on this scale are usually orchestrated.” Emma Bonino, “No Court to Deter the Barbarity in Sierra Leone,” International Herald Tribune, July 8, 1998.
105 Horowitz Donald, The Deadly Ethnic Riot (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001), 33.
* The author thanks Pierre Hassner, Sofia Pérez, Roger Petersen, Scott Straus, Libby Wood, and participants in the May 2000 CERI/IEP conference on “La guerre entre le local et le global,” for their comments.
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