Why Rebels Reject Peace
Huff, Connor Dezzani
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CitationHuff, Connor Dezzani. 2019. Why Rebels Reject Peace. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThe successful resolution of violent intrastate conflict often depends upon rebels being willing to accept compromise peace settlements. However, some rebels refuse to do so, instead forming splinter organizations who perpetuate and escalate the violence in an effort to undermine the peace. Why? This dissertation presents a new individual-level theory of rebel decision-making to answer this question. I argue that rebels’ personal experiences shape their anger toward, and trust in, the adversary they are combating. Rebels with higher levels of anger derive greater utility from defeating the government adversary outright, while rebels with lower levels of trust are less likely to think the government will abide by the terms of a proposed settlement. Increasing the value rebels place on defeating the government and decreasing expectations the government will abide by the deal, make individual rebels more likely to continue fighting throughout the reject compromise peace settlements. Rebels' personal experiences aggregate over time, which create a distribution of rebels who vary in the likelihood they will compromise.
I apply the experience-based theory to the case of one of the longest running conflicts in modern history: the fight for a united and independent Ireland. I study two distinct choices faced by rebels after the decision to participate at conflict onset: the decision to continue fighting as the conflict unfolded, and the decision of whether to accept a compromise peace settlement. Following the Anglo-Irish Treaty of December 1921—which established an Irish Free State and partitioned Ireland into what is now the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland—fellow rebel combatants were forced to decide whether to accept the treaty or instead continue fighting against British government forces. Disagreements in this decision would plunge Ireland into a bloody civil war, pitting the “Pro-Treaty” versus “Anti-Treaty” factions of the once united Irish Republican Army against one another.
The dissertation uses new individual-level data gathered from the military pension applications of over 1,500 rebel combatants to study how rebels’ life experiences—such as being socialized into the rebel organizations, imprisoned, and persuaded by their commanding officers when offers of peace were on the table—affected the likelihood they continued fighting throughout the duration of the Irish War of Independence and accepted or rejected the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty. This is the first dataset ever compiled that includes individual-level information tracing the membership of a rebel organization through the entirety of a violent conflict. The dissertation thus demonstrates how the relative extremism of the membership of a rebel organization endogenously changes throughout the entirety of a violent conflict as result of government and rebel group actions.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:42013084
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