CIVIL WAR SETTLEMENTS AND COMBATANTS’ BEHAVIORS: STRATEGY, PERCEPTION, AND REPUTATION
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Three projects in my dissertation focus on the termination of internal conflicts based on three critical factors: a combatant’s bargaining strategy, perceptions of relative capabilities, and reputation for toughness. My dissertation aims to provide the relevant theoretical framework to understand war termination beyond the simple two-party bargaining context. The first project focuses on the government’s strategic use of peace agreements. The first project suggests that peace can also be designed strategically to create a better bargain in the near future by changing the current power balance, and thus the timing and nature of peace is not solely a function of overcoming current barriers to successful bargaining. As long as the government has no overwhelming capability to defeat all rebel groups simultaneously, it needs to keep multiple rebel groups as divided as possible. This strategic partial peace helps to deter multiple rebel groups from collaborating in the battlefield and increases the chances of victory against non-signatories. The second project deals with combatants’ perceptions of relative capabilities. While bargaining theories of war suggest that war ends when combatants share a similar perception about their relative capabilities, combatants’ perceptions about relative capabilities are not often homogeneous. While focusing on information problems, this paper examines when a rebel group underestimates the government’s supremacy in relative capabilities and how this heterogeneous perception about the power gap influences negotiated settlements. The third project deals with the tension between different types of reputations in the context of civil wars: 1) a reputation for resolve and 2) a reputation for keeping human rights standards. In the context of civil wars, the use of indiscriminate violence by the government is costly, and as such, it signals the government’s toughness (or resolve) to rebel groups. I argue that the rebels are more likely to accept the government’s offer when the government recently engaged in indiscriminate violence against civilians during the conflict. This effect, however, is conditional on the government’s international human rights reputation; suggesting that rebel groups interpret this violence as a signal particularly when the government does not have a penchant for attacking civilians in general.