Competing for Control: Conflict Power Dynamics, Civilian Loyalties and Violence in Civil War Public Deposited

Downloadable Content

Download PDF
Last Modified
  • March 20, 2019
  • Wood, Reed Morrison
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Political Science
  • Rather than an arbitrary decision, civilian victimization represents a strategic choice made by armed actors. The theory presented herein argues that violence strategies are largely shaped by fluctuations in the power dynamics between armed political actors. Insurgents and states actively compete over civilian loyalties because loyalty and support shape war outcomes. Civilian loyalty is largely contingent on the population's expectations of the benefits provided by each side as well as the probability of its victory. Both the credible provision of benefits by a side and civilians' expectations regarding war outcomes are determined by the relative capabilities of the actors. As insurgents weaken, civilians' evaluation of the likelihood of the group's victory declines, as do their expectations of receiving sufficient benefits to offset the risk of supporting the group. Declining capabilities and weakening civilian loyalty encourage insurgents to escalate violence in order to deter defections. A similar dynamic applies to states. As the regime weakens in the face of rising insurgent threat and declining civilian loyalty, it is increasingly likely to resort to higher levels of violence against civilians in an attempt to reassert control and enforce loyalty among the population. The statistical results presented here provide support for the thesis that changes in actors' relative capabilities influence the frequency and types of violence they employ against civilians.
Date of publication
Resource type
Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • "... in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of Political Science."
  • Crescenzi, Mark J. C.
Place of publication
  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • Open access

This work has no parents.