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

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

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.

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Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal Journal of Political Economy.

Volume (Year): 119 (2011)
Issue (Month): 4 ()
Pages: 766 - 819

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Handle: RePEc:ucp:jpolec:doi:10.1086/661983
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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  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. Collier, Paul & Hoeffler, Anke, 2000. "Greed and grievance in civil war," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2355, The World Bank.
  5. Powell, Robert, 2006. "War as a Commitment Problem," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 60(01), pages 169-203, January.
  6. Ross, Michael L., 2004. "How Do Natural Resources Influence Civil War? Evidence from Thirteen Cases," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 58(01), pages 35-67, February.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
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