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Population-centric warfare: How popular support determines civil war outcomes

Dixon, Matthew (2017) Population-centric warfare: How popular support determines civil war outcomes. PhD thesis, University of Essex.

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In recent years, the most technologically advanced militaries in the world have toiled against guerrilla forces. Counterinsurgent doctrine focuses on a government’s lack of popular support to explain this. Academic literature, however, currently treats popular mobilisation as a dependent variable, rather than using it as a framework for understanding the dynamics and outcomes of civil wars. This thesis represents a first step to address this disparity and incorporate popular support into the comparative study of civil war outcomes. I explore what popular support provides conflict actors, what determines population behaviour and how the ability of conflict actors to generate support determines the dynamics and outcome of a conflict. I conclude that popular support, or the battle for ‘hearts and minds’, is crucial to the power of conflict actors, but only when it is understood as a contribution, not shared preferences. Based on this analysis I propose a framework for studying civil conflict that focuses on the regenerative capacity of the two belligerents. The key battleground in any civil war is rebel efforts to degrade the sovereign structures the government uses to generate support from the population. If rebels can achieve this, the government collapses and the rebels can win the war even if they are smaller or fail to score any battlefield successes. I test this model using a quantitative analysis of 65 civil wars and four in-depth cases studies. Overall there is strong empirical support for the model of conflict developed in this thesis, raising a number of theoretical and practical implications. Most importantly, I find that strengthening institutions of governance, be they formal or informal, is the best method for governments to defeat rebel groups, while rebels win by undermining socioeconomic activity.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Civil war, insurgency, Cambodia, Zimbabwe, Nagorno-Karabakh, Burundi
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
U Military Science > U Military Science (General)
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Government, Department of
Depositing User: Matthew Dixon
Date Deposited: 27 Jan 2017 13:12
Last Modified: 19 Jan 2020 02:00

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