Why are conflict and civil war still endemic in the developing world? Are they the result of need, creed, or greed (that is, deprivation, identity, or private gain)? The role of the profit motive in sustaining conflicts -- to gain opportunities to plunder and loot -- has gained increasing prominence over the past decade. Paul Collier, working with some challenging statistical analyses, has argued that wars are instigated for profit and that substantial natural resources predispose a country to violence. That claim is overstated, but Collier's work, in particular, provides the starting point for this neat and well-organized collection. The contributors unsurprisingly suggest that conflict is a result of a complex combination of factors. The editors use informative case studies of Lebanon, Peru, Sierra Leone, Angola, Congo, Colombia, and Afghanistan to convey the complex political economies of these conflicts. Wars are rarely started for personal gain, but once they have begun, greed certainly becomes a more important factor.
All rights reserved. To request permission to distribute or reprint this article, please visit ForeignAffairs.com/Permissions.