Securing the Peace: The Durable Settlement of Civil Wars

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Timely and pathbreaking, Securing the Peace is the first book to explore the complete spectrum of civil war terminations, including negotiated settlements, military victories by governments and rebels, and stalemates and ceasefires. Examining the outcomes of all civil war terminations since 1940, Monica Toft develops a general theory of postwar stability, showing how third-party guarantees may not be the best option. She demonstrates that thorough security-sector reform plays a critical role in establishing peace over the long term.

Much of the thinking in this area has centered on third parties presiding over the maintenance of negotiated settlements, but the problem with this focus is that fewer than a quarter of recent civil wars have ended this way. Furthermore, these settlements have been precarious, often resulting in a recurrence of war. Toft finds that military victory, especially victory by rebels, lends itself to a more durable peace. She argues for the importance of the security sector—the police and military—and explains that victories are more stable when governments can maintain order. Toft presents statistical evaluations and in-depth case studies that include El Salvador, Sudan, and Uganda to reveal that where the security sector remains robust, stability and democracy are likely to follow.

An original and thoughtful reassessment of civil war terminations, Securing the Peace will interest all those concerned about resolving our world's most pressing conflicts.

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Editorial Reviews

Political Science Quarterly
Overall, the author develops a compelling argument and presents clear causal mechanisms that help explain what differentiates those civil wars that reoccur from those that do not. . . . Securing the Peace provides a thorough and engrossing look at the causes of post-conflict stability and has original and important implications for both empirical research and policymaking.
— Richard Frank
In her provocative study, Toft examines the outcomes of all civil war terminations since 1940 with the goal of developing a general theory of post-civil-war stability.
Perspectives on Politics
Securing the Peace offers an analysis that is as bold as it is persuasive. Toft teaches us that negotiated settlement should not be treated as the default option for resolving civil wars. Scholars and policymakers will find this to be a lucid, compelling, and important lesson. Peacemakers, who may inadvertently prolong the very wars they seek to resolve, will ignore this warning at their peril.
— Ron E. Hassner
Political Science Quarterly - Richard Frank
Overall, the author develops a compelling argument and presents clear causal mechanisms that help explain what differentiates those civil wars that reoccur from those that do not. . . . Securing the Peace provides a thorough and engrossing look at the causes of post-conflict stability and has original and important implications for both empirical research and policymaking.
Perspectives on Politics - Ron E. Hassner
Securing the Peace offers an analysis that is as bold as it is persuasive. Toft teaches us that negotiated settlement should not be treated as the default option for resolving civil wars. Scholars and policymakers will find this to be a lucid, compelling, and important lesson. Peacemakers, who may inadvertently prolong the very wars they seek to resolve, will ignore this warning at their peril.
From the Publisher
"Overall, the author develops a compelling argument and presents clear causal mechanisms that help explain what differentiates those civil wars that reoccur from those that do not. . . . Securing the Peace provides a thorough and engrossing look at the causes of post-conflict stability and has original and important implications for both empirical research and policymaking."—Richard Frank, Political Science Quarterly

"In her provocative study, Toft examines the outcomes of all civil war terminations since 1940 with the goal of developing a general theory of post-civil-war stability."Choice

"Securing the Peace offers an analysis that is as bold as it is persuasive. Toft teaches us that negotiated settlement should not be treated as the default option for resolving civil wars. Scholars and policymakers will find this to be a lucid, compelling, and important lesson. Peacemakers, who may inadvertently prolong the very wars they seek to resolve, will ignore this warning at their peril."—Ron E. Hassner, Perspectives on Politics

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691141466
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 10/26/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 244
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Monica Duffy Toft is associate professor of public policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. She is the author of "The Geography of Ethnic Violence" (Princeton).

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By Monica Duffy Toft


Copyright © 2009 Princeton University Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-691-14145-9

Chapter One

Introduction: Civil War Termination in Historical and Theoretical Context

Civil wars are nasty, brutish, and long. Sometimes, civil wars that seem ended recur. They are the most common sort of large-scale violence, resulting in massive and often catastrophic killing and destruction. The civil war in Rwanda was accompanied by genocide, and in Afghanistan, the Taliban are resurging against domestic and international opponents. Civil war plagues Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Somalia, Sri Lanka, and Sudan, while it threatens to reemerge in full force in Lebanon and Nigeria.

Why do some civil wars end, and stay ended, while others reignite? Under what conditions do civil wars end in an enduring and constructive peace-a peace that does not hamper positive postwar social, political, and economic development? Is it something in the nature of the agreements themselves, or perhaps in the nature of the way the war ends, that makes the crucial difference?

These questions are important because although much has been written about civil wars (how and why they start, how costly they are, when they are likely to expand across state boundaries, and how to end them), there has been little attention paid to the significant issue of the relationship between how a civil war ends and the likelihood that a constructive peace will be sustained. Furthermore, though recent works begin to explore the subject both empirically and qualitatively, we have yet to develop a general theoretical framework for understanding the conditions that lead to a stable, democratic, and prosperous peace.

Civil wars, especially those in the last sixty years, have most often ended in one of two ways: (1) with outright military victory by one side over its rival(s); or (2) with a negotiated settlement that preserves belligerents physically and undertakes to ratify by contract an acceptable postwar distribution of valued resources. I argue that each resolution type has its advantages and disadvantages, and that combining the stronger elements of each will make it possible to design civil war settlements that are both enduring and constructive. In sum, I offer a general explanation of civil war termination outcomes and introduce a strategy of "mutual benefit and mutual harm" for achieving durable peace.

Mutual Benefit, Mutual Harm

If we look at most negotiated settlements, we find that their chief strength lies in the promise of two sorts of direct benefit to former combatants. On the negative benefit side, combatants who contract to avoid further armed conflict immediately benefit by avoiding the risk of physical destruction (both of themselves and of their collective or private property), and by lifting the cloud of anxiety that invariably accompanies conflicts when pursued by violent means. On the positive benefit side, most negotiated settlements include provisions for development and reconstruction aid, and for the redistribution of offices in postwar government. Recent negotiated settlements to civil wars make it clear that, taken together, most well-meaning third parties tend to assume that the benefits of peace (narrowly defined), and the positive benefits promised following a ceasefire, are sufficient conditions for what they hope will become an enduring and constructive peace settlement. I disagree. I will show that a key weakness of negotiated settlements lies in their general lack of a credible guarantee to harm or punish defectors should one or more of the contracting parties renege on its commitments. In ending a civil war, the negotiated provision of a promised benefit without the provision of a credible threat of punishment leaves negotiated settlements vulnerable either to outright cheating or to tactical cease-fires in which one or all parties simply use the respite to rearm in hopes of achieving original or expanded political objectives. This may explain why negotiated settlements are both advocated more often as an ideal means to end civil wars, and why empirically they are more likely to break down, resulting in a renewed (and at times escalated) violent conflict.

In contrast, and again empirically, civil wars ended by military victory are much more likely to stay ended. This striking difference forces consideration of a number of important theoretical and policy questions. For example, when we want to know whether, as a matter of policy, we should work toward better-negotiated settlements or toward military support of one side that would hasten a military victory, we must closely examine questions of relative cost. This raises the immediate problem of which side to choose, and the question of whether there in fact exists a "good" side to aid over a "bad" or "worse" side. Most parties to a civil war have both legitimate and illegitimate grievances and motivations. Whereas negotiated settlements have the virtue of appearing to save lives (a crucial cost), military victories appear to suffer from the opposite drawback in that they imply greater loss of life. I use the word "appear" because, in many cases, the promise of an outright victory of arms by one side may actually save lives, either by forcing the losing side to surrender more quickly (once prospects of support or intervention by a third party vanish) or by preserving peace over a longer period of time. At this juncture, two key questions thus follow: (1) Are lives the only or most crucial cost to take into consideration when evaluating the utility of outcomes? (2) By what mechanism do military victories tend to result in an enduring peace?

The first question must be answered in the negative: certainly, casualties involving both combatants and noncombatants are a crucial cost consideration, but so are quality-of-life issues. The latter category includes factors such as basic human rights, political liberties, and prospects for economic survival and prosperity after the immediate threat of physical violence has ebbed. Although the concern of preserving lives is surely a worthy goal and a necessary consideration, it should never serve as a sufficient consideration for evaluating the utility of potential policy options.

In contrast, several answers to the second question (concerning the mechanisms by which military victories result in enduring peace) seem appropriate. These answers involve issues that range from the nature of the political objectives sought, to the destructiveness of the war itself, to the relative power of the actors following the cessation of conflict. In fact, military victories have the advantages and disadvantages of negotiated settlements in an inverted form: while they excel in terms of the guarantee of providing harm to survivors on the losing side (potential defectors to the peace), they are weak in their promise of affording benefits to losers. Because the threat of physical harm in reprisal for violating the peace is generally a more immediate one than the threat of other harms (e.g., economic and social), military victories, ceteris paribus, result in a higher likelihood of enduring peace.

Two crucial issues follow from the argument above. First, we cannot infer from the strong correlation between (1) military victory as a civil war termination profile and (2) enduring peace as an outcome that military victory should be promoted in general as an ideal resolution to civil wars. This is because victory is determined by legitimacy as well as by resources (e.g., access to cash, arms, and allies), and no necessary connection exists between possession of resources and legitimacy. Supporting military victory as a generally preferred civil war termination outcome would therefore sometimes result in a "better" outcome (greater justice alongside less loss of life and overall destruction) and sometimes produce a "worse" outcome (injustice, regardless of loss of life). This serves as another avenue by which one can question the practice of measuring the utility of a policy option only in terms of physical loss of life. Second, a large-n analysis of civil wars reveals an even more interesting empirical puzzle: when we disaggregate "military victory" and consider the impact of victories made by incumbents and rebels separately, military victories by rebels tend to be far more stable. This clearly implies that, no matter how military victories achieve this effect, something more nuanced than "they save or cost more lives than negotiated settlements" must be at work.

In sum, negotiated settlements are stronger in their promise of benefits to former combatants but weaker in their promise of harm to those who violate the peace. Military victories are stronger in their promise of harm to former combatants on the losing side, and weaker in their promise of benefits. Empirically, military victories, as a war termination type, correlate strongly with enduring peace. As noted above, however, we cannot infer from this that of the two policy options, military victories are to be generally advocated, because they carry with them the promise of other costs that may outweigh the benefits of peace and savings in terms of lives lost and property destroyed.

The central argument of this book is that it is both possible and necessary to develop a hybrid strategy for ending civil wars in a constructive manner, one that incorporates the strengths of both the negotiated settlement and military victory termination profiles. While negotiated settlements tend to emphasize the provision of goods, such as political offices and the distribution of resources, credible mechanisms that establish the threat of harm to perpetrators of violence-and most notably reforming the security sector-are often given little to no consideration. There are several reasons for this. First, a credible threat of harm most often implies a credible threat of military intervention. As most military interventions since the end of the Cold War (save perhaps NATO's intervention in Kosovo in 1999) have gone badly, negotiated settlements appear to offer the promise of halting violence without risking body bags. Second, rebuilding the armed forces and police of a state does not produce the same visceral appeal as does feeding starving children, housing returning refugees, or handling war crimes and human rights violations. Third, the security sector may be implicated in the worst excesses of the war, in which case the people would be disinclined to reconstitute security institutions, thereby reempowering them with a capacity that could be used for future repression and civil war.

But by building on an existing collection of excellent and well-developed literature on the rise of the "state" as a form of political association, as well as literature on state- and nation-building, I show that security sector reform (SSR) offers the potential for both enduring and constructive peace.

The next section presents an empirical overview of civil wars and the nature of their ends since 1940, and an explanation of why the study of civil wars and civil war termination is so important. Thereafter, the chapter introduces keys terms and lays out the plan of the rest of the book.

An Empirical Overview of Civil Wars and Their Termination

Perhaps the most common observation since the end of the Cold War has been that, while interstate wars continue to decline in frequency, civil wars and ethnic conflicts are on the rise. Examining the number of civil wars that began in each decade, as shown in Table 1.1, we find no real pattern of a decrease or increase in this type of conflict. Between 1940 and 2005 there were a total of 130 civil wars. Of these, 11 were ongoing as of 2008 and 2 (Sudan and the Philippines) "ended" only recently; these 13 cases were dropped from the statistical analysis. The average number of intrastate wars that started in each decade is about 22, with a high of 25 new wars in the 1970s and a low of 17 in the 1980s.

If we examine the number of civil wars ended per decade, we do see that the 1990s saw far more wars ending than in previous decades. Table 1.2 highlights the increase in peace that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of U.S.-Soviet rivalry. In the 1990s 37 civil wars, or one-third of all wars that began during the entire period (1940-1999), came to an end. Most civil wars were ended by a military victory (79 wars, or 70 percent), followed by negotiated settlements (22 wars, or 19 percent), with cease-fires/stalemates (12 wars, or 11 percent) accounting for the fewest terminations. During this period, military victories were nearly four times more common than negotiated settlements and seven times more common than cease-fires/stalemates. However, when civil war termination types are broken down by decade, some interesting trends emerge:

Figure 1.1 shows that the manner in which civil wars end has changed dramatically since 1940. Whereas military victory was the dominant mode of ending civil war for most of the period-ending from between three-fourths of and all wars up through the 1980s-by the 1990s military victory ended only four out of ten such conflicts. Moreover, while negotiated settlements ended only a handful of wars between 1940 and 1989 (a total of 7), by the 1990s they were just as common as victories, accounting for 41 percent of all civil wars ended in that decade. A total of 37 wars ended in the 1990s, including 15 ended by negotiated settlement, 15 by military victory, and 7 by a cease-fire/stalemate.

The data in table 1.2 and figure 1.1 raise two immediate questions. First, what was it about the 1990s that might account for the increase in civil wars ending by negotiated settlement? Second, if ending civil wars by negotiated settlement has become the preferred policy (as shown clearly in fig. 1.1), should it remain so?

Two factors can explain the increase in peace observed in the 1990s. First, the end of the Cold War deprived the United States and Soviet Union of the incentive to provide cheap (or free) arms to combatants in proxy wars. Even for those combatants who wished to continue fighting, this provided an unavoidable lull in hostility during which new sources of revenue to support further weapons acquisitions could be arranged (e.g., in Sierra Leone and Angola). Second, as the sole remaining superpower, the United States came under increasing pressure to take moral responsibility for ongoing civil wars, as it possessed the diplomatic, economic, or military capacity to halt many such conflicts outright. This pressure, which has continued to exist, encouraged the United States (and some of its allies) to intervene in order to stop the progress of ongoing civil wars. The positive case for intervention arose especially with regard to conflicts where the benefits of a resolution were expected to be high (e.g., those like the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, whose destructiveness threatened a U.S. national interest, such as stability in Europe), or to conflicts where the costs of achieving a resolution were expected to be low, such as Somalia in 1993.

The question of whether a general policy of intervening to halt civil wars by negotiation is good policy is at the center of the present inquiry. While there are a number of arguments for ending civil wars by negotiated settlement, two in particular stand out: a negotiated settlement would result in (1) fewer deaths than a war ended by decisive victory, and (2) a reduced likelihood of the need for military intervention by third parties facilitating the negotiations (and for volunteering postwar reconstruction resources). According to the logic of the first argument, without a settlement the combatants would go on killing each other, perhaps even escalating the quality of violence along with the quantity. By negotiating an armistice followed by settlement, negotiated settlements should therefore save a greater number of lives than could be preserved by allowing combatants to fight to a decisive outcome. The logic of the second argument is that the economic costs of postwar reconstruction can be shared more easily-and sustained without a loss of public support-than can the costs in soldiers' lives. Although both cash and lives represent real costs, citizens experience the price of lost loved ones in a much more intense and direct manner than they experience the opportunity costs associated with a larger aid package. States therefore have a strong interest in limiting costs to those of an economic sort (and perhaps a risk of diplomatic prestige or reputation) and will be more loath to risk the lives of soldiers, except in cases where leaders have calculated that a military operation will be low-risk (again, as the United States did in Somalia in 1993).

But there are problems with both arguments. If it is true, for example, that a war interrupted may save lives, it is equally true that combatants have strong incentives to avoid sharing power or other values with their adversaries. Furthermore, in the absence of committed intervention by a third party, combatants may simply use an armistice as an opportunity to recover and rearm in preparation for a future fight. In other words, negotiated settlements may have an increased likelihood of saving lives in the short term, but they may cost more lives in the long term. By contrast, decisive victories make rearming by the losing side improbable. In addition, if combatants nearing defeat cannot assume that a third party will be available to save them, they may give up sooner, thus sparing lives by shortening the war.


Excerpted from SECURING THE PEACE by Monica Duffy Toft Copyright © 2009 by Princeton University Press. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

List of Tables and Illustrations ix
Preface xi
Chapter 1. Introduction: Civil War Termination in Historical and Theoretical Context 1
Chapter 2. Civil War Termination in Perspective 19
Chapter 3. Securing the Peace: Mutual Benefi t, Mutual Harm 39
Chapter 4. Statistical Analysis of War Recurrence and Longer- Term Outcomes 53
Chapter 5. El Salvador: A Successful Negotiated Settlement 70
Chapter 6. Uganda: Rebel Victory Begets Stability 96
Chapter 7. The Republic of Sudan: A Collapsed Negotiated Settlement 116
Chapter 8. The Republic of Sudan: Prospects for Peace 130
Chapter 9. Conclusion 150
Appendix 163
Notes 175
Bibliography 207
Index 223

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