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Conclusion: Improving Theory and Policy This book improves our understanding of civil and international conflict by examining the transnational dimensions of political violence. Rather than considering events in isolation of one another, this work advances a theory of conflict in which domestic and international processes overlap, actors span national boundaries, and bargaining takes place at multiple levels . What remains is to consider the significance of this research for the study of international politics more generally and for real-world policy discussions . The purpose of this chapter is threefold: (1) to recap the major empirical findings of the book; (2) to discuss how these findings inform theories of conflict and the study of the state, international politics, and transnationalism; and (3) to examine the practical policy implications of this book and how the international community might develop more robust responses to transnational conflicts. Summary of Major Findings In broad terms, the findings here lend substantial support to the contention that civil wars should not be understood as isolated events but must be situated within a broader regional and international context. Armed conflicts between governments and their political opponents are both cause and consequence of international hostilities between states. Bad geographic “neighborhoods” and transnational social processes frequently compound the problems of state weakness, instability, and violent conflict. One can discern on a map regions where peace, democracy, human rights, and economic development prevail as well as regions where war, poverty, and authoritarianism coincide. The main empirical findings of this book, therefore, indicate that interactions within and between states are not independent of one another. Through careful data collection, large-N quantitative studies, and case narratives, I have provided strong evidence that several inter- and intrastate conflicts are driven by transnational linkages and actors bridging the internal/external divide. The main conclusions to be drawn, then, are: 1. ‘Bad Neighborhoods’ Make Countries More Prone to Civil War Chapter 2 developed several propositions and quantitative tests regarding how “neighborhood effects” increase the risk of civil war onset and prolong ongoing wars. In addition to these quantitative tests, the book also examined several cases in depth, including Rwandan rebels in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nicaraguan rebels in Honduras, and Iranian rebels in Iraq (and vice versa), among others. Whereas the quantitative results illustrated broad patterns that can be generalized across countries, the case studies provided rich detail about particular conflicts. Considerable evidence suggests a strong relationship between the regional environment in which a state is situated and the likelihood of civil war. What are these neighborhood effects? First, weak states in the neighborhood contribute to local civil wars. Weak neighbors cannot police their territory effectively, and, in particular, countries that are themselves undergoing violent conflict are more likely to be used as havens for transnational rebel organizations. Failed states in the neighborhood contribute to the geographic diffusion of conflict, as transnational rebel groups find sanctuaries in countries that cannot establish control over their territory. A civil war in one state has been demonstrated to be one of the most robust predictors of domestic conflict in a neighboring state (Hegre and Sambanis 2006), although diffusion effects have been poorly understood. One of the most important mechanisms by which conflicts cluster within particular regions pertains to transnational actors and social processes that link multiple conflicts together. In addition to weak states, international rivalries exert a significant in- fluence on civil conflict because international enemies provide support and sanctuary to rebel groups. Thus, international conflicts give rise to civil wars because states support rebel groups as an alternative means of undermining their rivals. Several Central American governments, for instance, supported the Contras instead of directly attacking Nicaragua. Quantitative results show international rivals to be a significant predictor of civil war continuation. Case narratives provide numerous examples in which 166 Rebels without Borders international rivals have sought to put pressure on their enemies, not through the direct use of force, but by empowering TNRs. Refugee communities in neighboring states also are shown to prolong civil wars. This finding contributes to a large body of case-study literature on the “refugee warrior” phenomenon (see, e.g., Lischer 2005; Stedman and Tanner 2003; Zolberg, Suhrke, and Aguayo 1989), which suggests that rather than being passive victims of conflict and persecution, refugees may also become active participants in armed hostilities and that refugee camps serve as safehavens for TNRs. This is...


Subject Headings

  • Insurgency.
  • Civil war.
  • Non-state actors (International relations).
  • Transnational sanctuaries (Military science).
  • Ethnic conflict.
  • Transborder ethnic groups.
  • World politics -- 1989-.
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