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A Two-Stage Approach to Civil Conflict: Contested Incompatibilities and Armed Violence

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We present a two-stage approach to civil conflict analysis. Unlike conventional approaches that focus only on armed conflict and treat all other cases as “at peace”, we first distinguish cases with and without contested incompatibilities (Stage 1) and then whether or not contested incompatibilities escalate to armed conflict (Stage 2). This allows us to isolate factors that contribute to conflict origination (onset of incompatibilities) and factors that promote conflict militarization (onset of armed violence). Using new data on incompatibilities and armed conflict, we replicate and extend three prior studies of violent civil conflict, reformulated as a two-stage process, considering a number of different estimation procedures and potential selection problems. We find that the group-based horizontal political inequalities highlighted in research on violent civil conflict clearly influence conflict origination but have no clear effect on militarization, whereas other features emphasized as shaping the risk of civil war, such as refugee flows and soft state power, strongly influence militarization but not incompatibilities. We posit that a two-stage approach to conflict analysis can help advance theories of civil conflict, assess alternative mechanisms through which explanatory variables are thought to influence conflict, and guide new data collection efforts.
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... On the empirical side, the central mechanism can help ground assumptions in future two-stage conflict modeling processes. Existing research tends to rely on a set of assumptions that the issues states fight over in first-stage conflict procedures are correlated with how they bargain over these issues in the second stage (e.g., Bartusevicius and Gleditsch, 2019;Lemke and Reed, 2001;Reed, 2000). However, these modeling assumptions can sometimes produce puzzling results that the same factors which cause rivalries to emerge can counterintuitively make war less likely. ...
... For example, Lemke and Reed (2001: 466) find increasing the payoff to fighting makes rivalries more common, but "seems paradoxically to make war between rivals less likely." Bartusevicius and Gleditsch (2019) similarly find increasing grievance intensity makes mobilization more common, but has no effect on escalation to civil war. ...
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... The econometric evidence is mixed. Existing studies find positive, negative and null relationships between group disadvantages and non-violent conflict (Bartusevicˇius and Gleditsch, 2019;Butcher and Svensson, 2016;Chenoweth and Ulfelder, 2017;Cunningham, 2013;Dahl et al., forthcoming;Gurr, 1993;Miodownik and Nir, 2016;Østby, 2016;Regan and Norton, 2005;Thurber, 2018). ...
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... Ties to existing societal cleavages in host states elevate the tendency of refugees to ignite civil conflict (Salehyan and Gleditsch 2006). The increased likelihood of conflict is a function of potential incompatibilities between refugees and host populations (Gleditsch and Bartusevičius 2018). Refugee flows have also been linked to international conflict by increasing tensions between recipient and sending states. ...
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