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  • Print publication year: 2013
  • Online publication date: June 2014

8 - The Duration and Outcome of Civil Wars


The empirical chapters in Part II of this book have applied our grievance and inequality perspective to propositions on the initial outbreak of civil wars. In this chapter, we consider the implications of exclusion and grievances for the duration and outcome of civil wars.

The duration of conflict is interesting in its own right, as the length and persistence vary dramatically across civil wars. Some civil wars can last as little as a single day. Many military coups that generate sufficient casualties to be considered civil wars in the UCDP/PRIO Armed Conflict Data Set or comparable data sets either fail or succeed within a very short time period (Gleditsch et al. 2002; Cunningham et al. 2009). For example, the coup by General Rodríguez against the Paraguayan dictator General Stroessner was limited to a five-hour military battle on 3 February 1989 (incidentally, Stroessner's daughter was married to Rodríguez's son, confirming the within-center character of the conflict).

Other civil wars, however, go on for decades. This, in particular, seems to be the case for many conflicts pitting the state or the political center against marginalized and excluded ethnic groups. For example, the armed conflict involving the Karen National Union in Myanmar, which first became active in 1966, has defied any kind of resolution or definite outcome. It was still considered ongoing at the end of 2011 in the UCDP database.

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