Understanding strategic choice: The determinants of civil war and nonviolent campaign in self-determination disputes

Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Cunningham, Kathleen Gallagher (2013) Understanding strategic choice: The determinants of civil war and nonviolent campaign in self-determination disputes, Journal of Peace Research 50(3): 291–304.

​What determines why some self-determination disputes develop into mass nonviolent campaigns, others turn into civil wars, and still others remain entirely in the realm of conventional politics? A great deal of work has addressed the factors that lead to violent mobilization, but less attention has been paid to understanding why disputes become violent or nonviolent, comparing these two as strategic choices relative to conventional politics. This article examines the determinants of strategy choice in self-determination disputes by analyzing how a variety of factors affect the costs and benefits of conventional political strategies, mass nonviolent campaign, and civil war. I find that civil war is more likely, as compared to conventional politics, when self-determination groups are larger, have kin in adjoining states, are excluded from political power, face economic discrimination, are internally fragmented, demand independence, and operate in states at lower levels of economic development. I find that nonviolent campaign is more likely, as compared to conventional politics, when groups are smaller, are less geographically concentrated, are excluded from political power, face economic discrimination, make independence demands, and operate in non-democracies. Examining the full set of strategies available to self-determination groups allows us to more accurately understand why these groups engage in mass nonviolent campaign and civil war.​

Available online

Authors

Kathleen Gallagher Cunningham

Kathleen Gallagher Cunningham

Senior Researcher