Alliance Formation in Civil Wars

Paperback (Print)
Buy New
Buy New from
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $29.59
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 15%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (9) from $29.59   
  • New (7) from $29.59   
  • Used (2) from $62.60   


Some of the most brutal and long-lasting civil wars of our time – those in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Lebanon, and Iraq, among others – involve the rapid formation and disintegration of alliances among warring groups, as well as fractionalization within them. It would be natural to suppose that warring groups form alliances based on shared identity considerations – such as Christian groups allying with Christian groups, or Muslim groups with their fellow co-religionists – but this is not what we see. Two groups that identify themselves as bitter foes one day, on the basis of some identity narrative, might be allies the next day and vice versa. Nor is any group, however homogeneous, safe from internal fractionalization. Rather, looking closely at the civil wars in Afghanistan and Bosnia and testing against the broader universe of fifty-three cases of multiparty civil wars, Fotini Christia finds that the relative power distribution between and within various warring groups is the primary driving force behind alliance formation, alliance changes, group splits, and internal group takeovers.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Although many scholars have studied the origins of interstate alliances, no one has answered the question of how warring groups choose their allies in civil wars – until now. Using insights from realist international relations theory, Fotini Christia convincingly shows that balance-of-power considerations drive the alliance decisions of armed groups, which simultaneously try to maximize their chances of victory and their share of the spoils. When these two goals conflict, groups switch sides with little conscience or consistency: today’s valued friends are often yesterday’s deadly foes. Drawing on extensive field work in Afghanistan and Bosnia, as well as statistical analysis of all multiparty civil wars, Christia’s fine book is a model of multimethod research that will make a lasting contribution to the literatures on alliance formation and civil wars."
Alexander Downes, George Washington University

"Christia provides a rigorous and compelling explanation for the puzzle of alliance formation and group fragmentation in multiparty civil wars. She demonstrates that they are driven by balancing rather than ideological or identity considerations, and shows that ‘identity narratives’ are ex-post instrumentalizations. A striking demonstration of how to blend theories of international relations with in-depth field research in hard places, this book is an important contribution to our understanding of the dynamics of civil wars."
Stathis N. Kalyvas, Yale University

"Just when it seemed that the balance of power had become an old-fashioned concept in international politics, it turns out that it is alive and well as the crucial factor shaping alliance strategies in today's civil wars. Although warring groups from the Balkans to Afghanistan may justify their alliances in terms of shared cultural identities, Fotini Christia shows that choices of friends and foes are in fact decisively shaped by tactical calculations based on power politics. Her diverse research skills, ranging from field interviews with ruthless warlords to statistical analyses of civil war datasets, make this a lively and rigorous contribution to the study of war."
Jack Snyder, Columbia University

"The overarching argument put forth by Christia is that rebel groups, driven by elite desire to survive and achieve postwar political control, will choose to align with other warring actors that will improve their chances of victory … the detailed accounts presented in the case studies are a welcome and valuable contribution to this new literature. Summing up: recommended."
M. Olson Lounsbery, East Caroline University, Choice

"Although some may argue that Christia’s neo-realist framework is not comprehensive because it undervalues the ideological and psychological dimensions of civil wars, the author’s argument is both persuasive and fundamental to understanding alliance formation and disintegration. The author’s observation in the book’s conclusion that the alliance shifts in Iraq’s Anbar province in favour of the Iraqi government (and then against it) have been driven by relative power considerations seems to be borne out by events since the book’s publication. Anyone interested in or responsible for policies aimed at resolving multi-party civil wars stands to gain from close consideration of Christia’s argument."
H. R. McMaster, Survival

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781107683488
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 11/30/2012
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 709,400
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Fotini Christia is Associate Professor of Political Science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She received her Ph.D. in Public Policy at Harvard University in 2008. Her research interests deal with issues of ethnicity, conflict and cooperation in the Muslim world. She has done extensive ethnographic, survey and experimental research in Bosnia-Herzegovina and is presently working on a field experiment in Afghanistan that addresses the effects of development aid on post-conflict governance and state building. Her current Afghanistan research project, on which she is co-principal investigator, draws upon a randomized impact evaluation of a $1 billion community-driven development program. Professor Christia has received support for her research from the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies, the London School of Economics International Growth Center, the UN's World Food Program and the World Bank, among other institutions. She has published work in publications such as Science, Comparative Politics and the Middle East Journal. She has also written on her experiences in Afghanistan, Iran, the West Bank and Gaza and Uzbekistan for Foreign Affairs, The New York Times, the Washington Post and the Boston Globe. She graduated magna cum laude with a joint B.A. in Economics and Operations Research from Columbia College and an MA in international affairs from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University.
Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Part I. Context and Theory: 1. Literature and research design; 2. A theory of warring group alliances and fractionalization in multi-party civil wars; Part II. Afghanistan: 3. The Afghan Intra-Mujahedin War, 1992–8; 4. The Afghan Communist-Mujahedin War, 1978–89; 5. The theory at the commander level in Afghanistan, 1978–98; Part III. Bosnia and Herzegovina: 6. The Bosnian Civil War, 1992–5; 7. The Bosnian Civil War, 1941–5; Part IV. Further Extensions: 8. Quantitative testing on the universe of cases of multi-party civil wars.
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)