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Combatant recruitment and the outcome of war

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  • Ahmed Saber Mahmud

    ()

  • Juan F. Vargas

    ()

Abstract

Why do some civil wars terminate soon, with victory of one party over the other? What determines if the winner is the incumbent or the rebel group? Why do other conflicts last longer? We propose a simple model in which the power of each armed group depends on the number of combatants it is able to recruit. This is in turn a function of the relative 'distance' between group leaderships and potential recruits. We emphasize the moral hazard problem of recruitment: fighting is costly and risky so combatants have the incentive to defect from their task. They can also desert alto- gether and join the enemy. This incentive is stronger the farther away the fighter is from the principal, since monitoring becomes increasingly costly. Bigger armies have more power but less monitoring capacity to prevent defection and desertion. This general framework allows a variety of interpretations of what type of proximity matters for building strong cohesive armies ranging from ethnic distance to geographic dispersion. Di¤erent assumptions about the distribution of potential fighters along the relevant dimension of conflict lead to di¤erent equilibria. We characterize these, discuss the implied outcome in terms of who wins the war, and illustrate with historical and contemporaneous case studies.

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Paper provided by UNIVERSIDAD DEL ROSARIO in its series DOCUMENTOS DE TRABAJO with number 005029.

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Length: 26
Date of creation: 23 Sep 2008
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Handle: RePEc:col:000092:005029

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  1. Juan F. Vargas, 2009. "Military Empowerment and Civilian Targeting in Civil War," HiCN Working Papers 56, Households in Conflict Network.
  2. Jose Montalvo & Marta Reynal-Querol, 2010. "Ethnic polarization and the duration of civil wars," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 11(2), pages 123-143, April.
  3. Jean-Yves Duclos & Joan Esteban & Debraj Ray, 2004. "Polarization: Concepts, Measurement, Estimation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(6), pages 1737-1772, November.
  4. Grossman, Herschel I, 1991. "A General Equilibrium Model of Insurrections," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(4), pages 912-21, September.
  5. Fearon, James D., 1995. "Rationalist explanations for war," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 49(03), pages 379-414, June.
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  7. Oeindrila Dube & Juan F. Vargas, 2006. "Resource Curse in Reverse: The Coffee Crisis and Armed Conflict in Colombia," Royal Holloway, University of London: Discussion Papers in Economics 06/05, Department of Economics, Royal Holloway University of London, revised Dec 2006.
  8. Stergios Skaperdas, 2008. "An economic approach to analyzing civil wars," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 9(1), pages 25-44, January.
  9. Shapiro, Carl & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1984. "Equilibrium Unemployment as a Worker Discipline Device," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(3), pages 433-44, June.
  10. Paul Collier & Anke Hoeffler, 2004. "Greed and Grievance in Civil War," Development and Comp Systems 0409007, EconWPA.
  11. Enrico Spolaore, 2007. "Civil Conflict and Secessions," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0705, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
  12. Joan-Maria Esteban & Debraj Ray, 1991. "On the Measurement of Polarization," Boston University - Institute for Economic Development 18, Boston University, Institute for Economic Development.
  13. Montalvo, Jose G. & Reynal-Querol, Marta, 2007. "Ethnic polarization and the duration of civil wars," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4192, The World Bank.
  14. Bernd Beber & Christopher Blattman, 2010. "The Industrial Organization of Rebellion: The Logic of Forced Labor and Child Soldiering," HiCN Working Papers 72, Households in Conflict Network.
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Cited by:
  1. Juan F Vargas, 2009. "Military empowerment and civilian targeting in civil war," DOCUMENTOS DE TRABAJO 005282, UNIVERSIDAD DEL ROSARIO.

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