Thursday, September 24, 2009

Civil Wars? Whose Job Is It Anyway?

The ways academics divide the world may be as surprising to outsiders. For instance, different people study ethnic conflict, nationalism, and contentious politics, and we rarely talk to each other. But the strangeness of the moment is Civil War. When I sought to teach a course on Civil War last year at the graduate level, a couple of my colleagues resisted, arguing that Civil War is a topic for Comparative Politics, not for scholars of International Relations. So, it raises the question: whose job is it to study Civil War anyway?

Wars among countries are the classic focus for IR scholarship, but that which happens within a country usually is seen as belonging to the Comparativists. BUT there are a few problems with this. A) The tools for understanding war among countries might just be handy for understanding wars within countries--that there may be some, ahem, comparative advantage for IR scholars to go there. B) Comparativists may have avoided the topic because they see war as too IR-ish (although the past few years have seen some really cool work). C) Most importantly, civil wars are not self-contained (just like other key dynamics these days), so that the causes, processes, and consequences of civil wars may involve stuff outside the country, like changes in commodity prices, involvement of ethnic kin (diasporas), the flow of refugees (as both cause and consequence of civil war), neighboring countries (irredentist or not), international organizations, non-governmental organizations, etc.

Which of these civil wars had little international importance/irrelevant transnational dynamics? (list from wikipedia, but largely overlaps with the usual lists)

* Afghan Civil War, 1978–present
* Algerian Civil War, 1991–2002, conflicts persist
* Angolan Civil War, 1974–1989, 1995–1997, 1998–2002
* Bosnian War, 1992-1995
* Burundi Civil War, 1988–1991, 1993–2005
* Cabindan Civil War, Angola, 1975–2006
* Cambodia, 1978–1993, 1997–1998
* Casamance Conflict, Senegal, 1990–present
* Chechen Wars, separatist conflicts against Russian federal government, 1994-6; 1999 to date
* Civil war in Chad
* Colombian armed conflict, 1964–present
* Congo Civil War, 1996–1997, 1998–2003
* Côte d'Ivoire Civil War, 1999–2000, 2002–present
* Darfur Conflict, Sudan, 2003–present
* East Timor/Indonesia, 1975–1999
* First Eritrean Civil War, 2008-ongoing
* ETA separatist insurgency against the Spanish government, 1968? to present
* Georgian Civil War, Abkhazia, South Ossetia in Georgia, 1988–present
* Guatemalan Civil War, 1960–1996
* Guinea-Bissau Civil War, 1998–1999
* Internal conflict in Peru, 1981-present (once extremely violent communist insurgency, which has largely wound down since 2000).
* Iraq War, 2003-present
* Israeli-Palestinian conflict 1948-present
* Islamic insurgency in the Philippines, 1969-present
* Kashmir Conflict, 1989–present
* Kurdish Civil War, 1994–1997
* Liberian Civil War, 1989–1996, 1999–2003
* Nepalese Civil War, 1996–2006
* Communist insurgency of the New People's Army in the Philippines, 1969-present
* Northern Irish civil war, 1969–1998 (Considered ongoing by extremist minority groups)
* Palestinian Civil War, 2006–present; fighting ended in June 2007
* Rwandan Civil War, 1990–1994
* Sierra Leone Civil War, 1991–2002
* Sri Lankan Civil War, 1983-2009
* Somali Civil War, 1991–present
* Sudanese Civil War, 1955–1972, 1983–2005
* Tajikistan Civil War, 1992–1997
* Ugandan Civil War, 1987–present
* Yemen Civil War, 1979–1989, 1994, 2000s
* Albanian Civil War 1997
* Kosovo War 1996–1999

I dare my readers to argue which one or ones of these conflicts have practically no international implications--that is that neither the civil war affects the neighbors/beyond nor the outside affects the civil war. Are there other recent civil wars omitted from this list because they have no external causes/processes/effects?

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