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"No War, Yet No Peace: How States and Rebel Groups Coexist" (Book Project)

For many countries, statehood is characterized by far less than full domestic authority with a state-held monopoly on violence. In fact, in many places around the world, armed rebel groups exist and persist autonomously alongside central governments holding at times an extensive degree of domestic authority. My dissertation investigates when and how states and rebel groups coexist. Specifically, I examine how autonomous armed groups persist without formal peace agreements and when the resulting governance arrangements are likely to last. I develop a theory for how state and non-state armed actors divide territorial and functional authority and how this allows them at times to settle into somewhat peaceful – albeit competitive – coexistence. I test the theory’s implications through a nested analysis approach where I combine cross-national statistical analysis on a novel dataset of rebel-state coexistence for 372 groups in the MENA region 1970-2012, within-country analysis for 67 armed groups in Iraq, and an in-depth case study tracing the evolution of the relationship between the central Iraqi government and the Kurdish armed groups between 1952 and 2019. The large-n analysis tests hypothesized relationships, while the process tracing draws on rich archival evidence to shed light on the underlying causal processes.

While a lot of scholarship on armed groups focuses on the extremes of their interactions with the state, peace or war respectively, most periods in the life of an armed group are neither. My work particularly focuses on rebel-state interactions in the periods many other datasets cast to the missing values. My methodological approach combines large-n maximum likelihood and event modeling with evidence from archival documents and field work in the Middle East. 

Under Review

​​"Know Thyself: Rebel Leader Experience and Bargaining Behavior" with Juliana Tappe-Ortiz.​

Why are some rebel leaders more effective negotiators than others? While some peace processes settle rapidly, others drag on for years making peace harder to achieve as conflicts and negotiations mature. Newly available data allows us to assess the effect of rebel leaders’ characteristics on negotiation dynamics and duration. We argue that combat experience of rebel leaders results in shorter negotiations as leaders better understand their group’s capabilities, and thus converge on mutually acceptable terms more quickly. We also show that combat experience mitigates how rebels bring their capabilities to bear in negotiations. We test our theory on a dataset of over 10,000 negotiation-months covering peace processes across 63 countries and territories between 1975 and 2013. Estimating cause-specific hazard models, we find that rebel leaders’ combat experience significantly decreases negotiation duration. Rebel leaders with combat experience achieve peace more rapidly regardless of their group’s relative capabilities. We contribute to a growing literature on rebel leader characteristics and shed light on previously understudied aspects of rebel behavior in civil war negotiations. Our findings contribute to the continuing debate about how and when leaders matter. Overall, this study advances an empirical research agenda focused on the role of rebel leaders in conflict processes and their negotiation behavior in particular.

Working Papers

"Coexisting with Threats: Informal Governance Arrangements in the Face of Foreign Subversion." 

How do states respond to foreign efforts to subvert their domestic authority? The presence of armed non-state actors allows foreign governments to engage these as proxies and further destabilize or distract governments of weak states. While the elimination, demobilization, or integration of armed actors may remove opportunities for external states to use armed groups as proxy forces, these strategies are difficult to achieve. I posit, states use a strategy of limited appeasement resulting in informal coexistence with domestic armed groups removing external state’s ability to undermine domestic authority through local armed challengers. The threat from foreign subversion facilitates demand for informal armed power-sharing. In turn, allowing states and armed groups to coexist. To test my theory, I estimate logistic and non-parametric survival models on a large-n dataset of 365 rebel-state dyads across the Middle East and North Africa region between 1970-2012. I find the risk of foreign meddling results in informal power-sharing that can constitute lasting coexistence. This study contributes to our understanding of how states can engage with and manage the persistence of armed nonstate actors, as well as the durability of informal peace and governance arrangements.

"Fade Away: Persistent Stalemates and the Durability of Informal Peace after Civil War."

Why do some civil war stalemates result in lasting informal peace? Existing research suggests that decisive victories or negotiated settlements in civil conflict provide greater chances for lasting peace. Yet, most civil conflicts “fade out” rather than conclude formally. We have limited understanding of the conditions that make certain actors more likely to cease violence rather than fight to the bitter end. I argue that conflicts that fade out can mark the beginning of persistent stalemates in which state and nonstate actors settle into lasting coexistence with low levels of hostilities. Using data on conflict episodes between 1970 and 2018, I show that persistent stalemates are neither more violent nor less stable than other forms of conflict termination. Estimating survival and competitive risk models, I find that the character of actors’ war aims, and the nature of post-war institutions shape the probability that informal peace lasts. This research advances our understanding of the conditions that make such informal peace last. More research is necessary to explore the arrangements that emerge where state and nonstate actors persist side-by-side without formal peace agreements.

​"When Rebels Turn Pro-Government: Explaining Rebel-State Cooperation During Multi-Party Conflict."​

When do rebels switch sides and align with the government during multiparty conflict? Today’s conflicts are increasingly characterized by a multiplicity of actors on both sides of a dispute. While much attention has been given to rebel side-switching across rebel alliances, the conditions for rebel side-switching to the government side remain understudied. Existing arguments focus only on groups’ willingness and capacity to side-switch and ignore governments’ incentives to accept the alliance. I argue that side-switching is most likely where the alliance offers both actors opportunities for outbidding, high expected benefits from removal of competitors, or alleviation of conflict intensity. Using Firth regression and rare events simulation on a dataset of deliberate alignment shifts during civil wars between 1989 and 2007, I find robust support for my argument. Armed groups’ resource and survival concerns alone matter little where governments benefit from intergroup competition and infighting. Expected mutual benefit rather than unilateral need is a strong predictor for rebel pro-government side-switching.

Works in Progress

  • "(Re)Conceptualizing International Intervention with Consent and Reform" with Aila Matanock.

  • "Avoiding the Coup-Proofing Dilemma: Invited Interventions in Africa and Beyond" with Aila Matanock and Andrew Wojtanik.

  • "UN Peacekeeping Deployment and the Displacement of Violence."

  • "Targeting the Motivated: Does Targeted Repression Reduce Domestic Terrorism in Autocracies?"

  • "Anonymous Terrorism Beyond Credit Claiming Behavior."

  • "Dangerous Conditions: Right-Wing Parties and Domestic Terrorism" with Jesus Rojas Venzor.

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