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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Peace Agreements as Counterinsurgency

  • Author(s): Brandt, Caroline M.
  • Advisor(s): Mattes, Michaela
  • et al.

Peace agreements are heralded as tools for ending civil war. However, exclusive peace agreements, accords that include only a subset of a conflict's warring parties, are unlikely to bring an end to a civil conflict. I argue that exclusive peace agreements serve a purpose beyond conflict resolution. Exclusive peace agreements are a counterinsurgency strategy.

Combatting more than one rebel group strains governments’ military abilities by dividing resources across multiple wars. Governments that would otherwise be able to defeat a rebel group may be unable to do so when tied down by multiple insurgencies. Based on this logic, and in contrast to the literature on spoilers in peace processes, I argue that the threat posed by other insurgent groups increases the likelihood that a government and rebel group sign an exclusive negotiated settlement. Exclusive peace agreements allow governments to consolidate military resources into the fight against the remaining insurgency. Exclusive peace agreements can further strengthen a government's counterinsurgency capabilities by including provisions for military power-sharing that transform conflict adversaries into war-fighting allies.

To test this hypothesis, I analyze all multiparty civil wars from 1975-2013. In support of the theory, I find that the threat posed by other rebel groups is positively correlated with the likelihood that a government and rebel group sign an exclusive peace accord. I then use a case study of civil war in the Southern Philippines to bring to light the mechanisms that undergird these correlations. In line with the theory, the threat posed by other rebel groups jump-started stalled peace talks with Moro insurgent groups. I also find that exclusive peace agreements were successful mechanisms for incorporating rebel soldiers into the government's fight against other rebel groups.

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