Bass 2006

From Projecting Power

Reading: Bass (2006), “What Really Causes Civil War? Why multiethnic societies may not be more prone to strife”

  • Main Argument: The presence of civil war or civil strife can not simply be attributed to ethnic diversity and sectarian divisions rather, these features must be contextualized and grounded within the political landscape.

Fearon & Laitin

  • 2003 Study of 127 civil wars from 1945-1999
  • The likelihood of civil war decreases as countries get richer, irrespective of ethnic demography
  • The more homogenous poor countries were more likely they to experience civil conflict
    • Why?
      • Ethnic and political grudges exist but require specific conditions to be mobilized
      • Conditions include but are not exclusive to foreign support, popular support from rural populations, government corrubption, etc.
  • Argument: Civil war and Civil conflict do not arise spontaneously, they are products of varying pressures including bad governance and socioeconomic strife

Examples: -The Sierra Leone civil war was fueled by corruption and unequal treatment towards some groups

-The Bosnia and Herzegovina civil war was fueled by leaders like Slobodan Milošević, who was openly racist towards certain ethnic groups

-The Angola Civil war was fueled by the fight over resources such as oil and diamonds, economic problem

- The Rwanda civil war with the Hitu and Tutsi was caused by the already existing conflicts between them and was then fueled even more by the government by using propaganda, a social problem

- The Syrian civil war was fueled by other nations getting invloved in their issues, these countries include the US and Iran

Supporting evidence

  • Crawford Young
  • Conflict patterns in Africa post-1989 reveal that most civil conflicts are not driven by religous, ethnic, or racial differences
    • Why did Civil Wars erupt?
      • Illicit arms sales from former Soviet Union, rising professionalism in foreign-trained guerillas, increased use of child soldiers
      • Rebel groups manage to finance themselves through illicit trade networks

Counter Evidence

  • Collier & Hoeffler
  • 2004 paper noted that societies with partial ethnic majority are more prone to civil strife
    • Why?
      • Larger ethnic group will be tempted to exploit smaller ethnic groups
  • In determining the factors that lead to civil war, we must avoid naturalizing the opposing sides. Conflicts arise out of specific political situations that can be traced and understood within a larger geopolitical landscape

Bass’s article "What Really Causes Civil War" goes into investigating what causes civil war, he finds that many factors influence the start of a conflict that escalates to the magnitude of civil war such as economical and social issues. The unequal treatment of a group of people paired with economical disadvantages makes for a very tense environment within the society.Bass thinks that civil wars are something that have to continue being studied and also asks the cooperation of the countries to come together and promote peace where there is conflict.