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Can Hearts and Minds Be Bought? The Economics of Counterinsurgency in Iraq

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  • Eli Berman
  • Jacob N. Shapiro
  • Joseph H. Felter

Abstract

We develop and test an economic theory of insurgency motivated by the informal literature and by recent military doctrine. We model a three-way contest between violent rebels, a government seeking to minimize violence by mixing service provision and coercion, and civilians deciding whether to share information about insurgents. We test the model using panel data from Iraq on violence against Coalition and Iraqi forces, reconstruction spending, and community characteristics (sectarian status, socioeconomic grievances, and natural resource endowments). Our results support the theory's predictions: improved service provision reduces insurgent violence, particularly for smaller projects and since the "surge" began in 2007.

Suggested Citation

  • Eli Berman & Jacob N. Shapiro & Joseph H. Felter, 2011. "Can Hearts and Minds Be Bought? The Economics of Counterinsurgency in Iraq," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 119(4), pages 766-819.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jpolec:doi:10.1086/661983
    DOI: 10.1086/661983
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Berman, Eli & Laitin, David D., 2008. "Religion, terrorism and public goods: Testing the club model," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(10-11), pages 1942-1967, October.
    2. Fearon, James D. & Laitin, David D., 2003. "Ethnicity, Insurgency, and Civil War," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 97(1), pages 75-90, February.
    3. Laurence Iannaccone & Eli Berman, 2006. "Religious extremism: The good, the bad, and the deadly," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 128(1), pages 109-129, July.
    4. Powell, Robert, 2006. "War as a Commitment Problem," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 60(1), pages 169-203, January.
    5. Eli Berman, 2003. "Hamas, Taliban and the Jewish Underground: An Economist's View of Radical Religious Militias," NBER Working Papers 10004, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. James D. Fearon, 2004. "Why Do Some Civil Wars Last So Much Longer than Others?," Journal of Peace Research, Peace Research Institute Oslo, vol. 41(3), pages 275-301, May.
    7. Eli Berman & Michael Callen & Joseph H. Felter & Jacob N. Shapiro, 2011. "Do Working Men Rebel? Insurgency and Unemployment in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Philippines," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 55(4), pages 496-528, August.
    8. Jeremy M. Weinstein, 2005. "Resources and the Information Problem in Rebel Recruitment," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 49(4), pages 598-624, August.
    9. Paul Collier & Anke Hoeffler, 2004. "Greed and grievance in civil war," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 56(4), pages 563-595, October.
    10. Ross, Michael L., 2004. "How Do Natural Resources Influence Civil War? Evidence from Thirteen Cases," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 58(1), pages 35-67, February.
    11. James D. Fearon, 2005. "Primary Commodity Exports and Civil War," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 49(4), pages 483-507, August.
    12. Scott Gates, 2002. "Recruitment and Allegiance," Journal of Conflict Resolution, Peace Science Society (International), vol. 46(1), pages 111-130, February.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • F51 - International Economics - - International Relations, National Security, and International Political Economy - - - International Conflicts; Negotiations; Sanctions
    • F52 - International Economics - - International Relations, National Security, and International Political Economy - - - National Security; Economic Nationalism
    • H4 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods
    • H43 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Project Evaluation; Social Discount Rate
    • H56 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - National Security and War
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • O53 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Asia including Middle East

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