Skip to content
Register Sign in Wishlist
Quagmire in Civil War

Quagmire in Civil War


  • Publication planned for: December 2019
  • availability: Not yet published - available from December 2019
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781108708265

c.£ 24.99

Pre-order Add to wishlist

Other available formats:

Looking for an inspection copy?

This title is not currently available on inspection

Product filter button
About the Authors
  • Our understanding of civil war is shot through with the spectre of quagmire, a situation that traps belligerents, compounding and entrenching war's dangers. Despite the subject's importance, its causes are obscure. A pervasive “folk” notion that quagmire is intrinsic to certain countries or wars has foreclosed inquiry, and scholarship has failed to identify quagmire as an object of study in its own right. Schulhofer-Wohl provides the first treatment of quagmire in civil war. In a rigorous but accessible analysis, he explains how quagmire can emerge from domestic-international interactions and strategic choices. To support the argument, Schulhofer-Wohl draws upon field research on Lebanon's 16-year civil war, structured comparisons with civil wars in Chad and Yemen, and rigorous statistical analyses of all civil wars worldwide fought between 1944 and 2006. The results make clear that the “folk” notion misdiagnoses quagmire and demand that we revisit policies that rest upon it. Schulhofer-Wohl demonstrates that quagmire is made, not found.

    • - First treatment of quagmire in civil war as object of study in its own right; conceptualizes quagmire, establishes its empirical prevalence, and analyzes its causes. - Employs multiple methodologies. Written in a non-technical manner, but offers interested readers technical depth in appendices. - Incorporates field research-based study of the Lebanese civil war (1975-1990), including interviews in Arabic with former commanders on all sides of the war - Uses micro-level research to shed light on a macro-level question, appealing both to those readers interested in big picture questions and those who seek to understand civil war through the eyes of the participants.
    Read more

    Reviews & endorsements

    This brilliant and erudite book, the outcome of assiduous and painstaking research, pulls together the premises underlying the heuristic metaphor of Quagmire. It is a master stroke. Destined, in my view, to become a landmark, a tour de force, even a classic for the analysis of civil wars in their diverse origins and manifestations. Like other classics, Professor Schulhofer-Wohl offers an enlightened theoretical paradigm, grounded empirical fieldwork, sustained by compelling prose. Equally appealing, he adopts a multilayered approach which draws on both internationally and domestically-centered perspectives to analyze the strategic interactions between foreign states and internal warring parties. In short, to understand how belligerents become entrapped in civil wars. Samir Khalaf, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, American University of Beirut

    It is sometimes said that powers “find” themselves bogged down in quagmires. In this lucidly written work, Jonah Schulhofer-Wohl argues that “quagmires are made, not found.” Schulhofer-Wohl shows just how foreign backers and belligerents make quagmires through the interaction of their strategic choices. The theory is built on two original insights: first, belligerents can choose between low-cost non-territorial and higher-cost territorial strategies; second, backers often have interests to support a belligerent side but cannot control whether their client chooses the non-territorial or territorial strategy or substitutes between them. Schulhofer-Wohl employs both formal analysis and case studies to show how a combination of foreign support and low-cost non-territorial strategies can lead to a situation in which all of the belligerents' best choice is neither to concede nor to escalate. “Quagmire in Civil War” is not only a significant contribution to our understanding of why some civil wars become prolonged, but also an important work adding to our comprehension of the preferences and interlocking strategic choices of external and domestic actors in civil war in general. Roger Petersen, Arthur and Ruth Sloan Professor of Political Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

    Professor Schulhofer-Wohl penetrates deeply into the question of why some – but not all – civil wars entrap governments and rebels fighting those governments, and their foreign backers, into quagmires. Using game theory as a starting point, he explains how calculations between domestic belligerents interact. He then expands his analysis to include how those belligerents' decisions and those of their foreign backers interact to shape and determine the other's actions. Schulhofer-Wohl discovers often counter-intuitive conclusions that he backs with statistical analysis. With a detailed assessment of key decisions that prolonged the Lebanese civil war as an example, and contrasting examples of civil wars in Chad and Yemen, Schulhofer-Wohl explains how the calculations about interests and costs among both belligerents and their foreign backers can mix and mold each other to develop – or not – into a civil war quagmire. Aspiring policymakers need to go beyond simplistic descriptions of the evolution of civil wars to consider this analysis about how decisions by different actors can together produce outcomes not originally forseen or intended by any side in a civil war. Robert S. Ford, U.S. Ambassador to Syria, 2011-2014.

    In this magisterial book, Schulhofer-Wohl takes on a big question: Why do some civil wars become “quagmires” while others do not? His innovative answer points to the strategic structure of a conflict and associated decision-making problems for the warring parties and their potential foreign backers. Moving research on civil wars in new directions, he brings conceptual rigor to the notion of a civil war quagmire and highlights key mechanisms leading to their emergence. His rigorous empirical approach, which combines hypotheses derived from a formal model, original fieldwork in Lebanon, cross-national statistical tests, and comparative historical research on Chad and Yemen, inspires confidence in his arguments. Melani Cammett, Clarence Dillon Professor of International Affairs, Harvard University

    While many scholars have viewed the Lebanese civil war as a key case study in comparative research on armed conflict, it was never quite written. Jonah Schulhofer-Wohl has finally done that job, and no one could have done it better. Quagmire in Civil War at once provides theoretical sophistication, in-depth empirical analysis, and policy relevance. It is one of the best studies on Lebanon and the Middle East I have seen in a very long time; a strong rebuke to anyone still claiming that Middle East studies fails to contribute to political science and the comparative study of war and peace. Reinoud Leenders, Reader at the Department of War Studies, King's College London. Author of Spoils of Truce: Corruption and State-Building in Postwar Lebanon

    See more reviews

    Customer reviews

    Not yet reviewed

    Be the first to review

    Review was not posted due to profanity


    , create a review

    (If you're not , sign out)

    Please enter the right captcha value
    Please enter a star rating.
    Your review must be a minimum of 12 words.

    How do you rate this item?


    Product details

    • Publication planned for: December 2019
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781108708265
    • dimensions: 228 x 152 mm
    • contains: 14 b/w illus. 7 maps 29 tables
    • availability: Not yet published - available from December 2019
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction
    2. A Theory of Quagmire
    3. The Lebanese Civil War, 1975-1990: Issues, Actors, Turning Points, Explanations
    4. Mechanisms of Quagmire in Lebanon
    5. Civil Wars Worldwide, 1944-2006
    6. Comparative Evidence from Chad and Yemen
    7. A Field Guide to Quagmire.

  • Author

    Jonah Schulhofer-Wohl, University of Virginia
    Jonah Schulhofer-Wohl is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Leiden University. He has held fellowships at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University. Schulhofer-Wohl's research has been supported by the Social Science Research Council, the National Science Foundation, the Orient-Institut Beirut, and the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation. He has lived in Syria and Lebanon and is fluent in Arabic.

Sign In

Please sign in to access your account


Not already registered? Create an account now. ×

Sorry, this resource is locked

Please register or sign in to request access. If you are having problems accessing these resources please email

Register Sign in
Please note that this file is password protected. You will be asked to input your password on the next screen.

» Proceed

You are now leaving the Cambridge University Press website. Your eBook purchase and download will be completed by our partner Please see the permission section of the catalogue page for details of the print & copy limits on our eBooks.

Continue ×

Continue ×

Continue ×

Find content that relates to you

Join us online

This site uses cookies to improve your experience. Read more Close

Are you sure you want to delete your account?

This cannot be undone.


Thank you for your feedback which will help us improve our service.

If you requested a response, we will make sure to get back to you shortly.

Please fill in the required fields in your feedback submission.