The Critical Barrier to Civil War Settlement

Why do commitment problems cause civil wars to drag on for years?

Takeaway Points

  1. At the end of a civil war, one side must usually lay down its arms and to reintegrate with civil society.
  2. Once that side has laid down its arms, however, nothing is enforcing the settlement. The government can therefore renege on its peace offer, kill the rebellion’s leaders, and revert back to pre-war policies.
  3. Rebel leaders therefore continue fighting even under bad conditions, hoping that they might get lucky and turn things around.
  4. Civil wars consequently rarely end in negotiated settlement.