Understanding Civil War: Evidence and Analysis. Vol. 1, Africa
Edited by Paul Collier and Nicholas Sambanis
World Bank, 2005, 350 pp.
Clausewitz and African War: Politics and Strategy in Liberia and Somalia
By Isabelle Duyvesteyn
Routledge, 2004, 200 pp.
An emerging literature on contemporary civil wars has used sophisticated econometric evidence to argue that they occur not because of political or socioeconomic grievances, but because of the financial rewards civil war makes available to warlords and their followers. In short, civil wars are caused by greed, not grievance. A seminal contributor to this literature has been Collier, now at Oxford University, and the approach has been referred to as the Collier-Hoeffer model, named for him and his co-author, Anke Hoeffer. Sambanis, the other editor of this first volume, has been a friendly critic of that approach, essentially arguing that the econometric evidence behind the greed hypothesis lacks the kind of nuance and attention to detail that only fieldwork-driven case studies can capture. The present volume thus constitutes a useful collaboration between two divergent schools of thought. A first chapter lays out the model and the cross-national quantitative evidence that supports it. The following eight assess the model in light of a detailed narrative of conflict in each of eight specific African countries. All are usefully informative, but the best chapters concern countries in which outcomes have not fully conformed to the model -- Kenya and Nigeria, for example. One aspect that emerges is the critical role played by neighboring countries and their willingness to provide support to one or multiple sides in the conflict. Because such external support is typically ambiguous, intermittent, and secret, it has been ignored in the econometric work, which focuses on factors with easily quantifiable indicators.
Duyvesteyn's book aims to reinterpret current conflict in Africa based on the theories put forth two hundred years ago by Clausewitz. She argues, in other words, that far from being random and apolitical, as they now tend to be portrayed, these conflicts have a political logic and are a continuation of the region's politics by other means, to paraphrase the Prussian theorist. Although Duyvesteyn does not take on the Collier-Hoeffer model explicitly, she is in effect rejecting their economistic claim that the desire for personal gain lies at the heart of these conflicts. She uses careful case studies of Liberia and Somalia to show that broader strategic concerns motivated the leaders of both sides of these civil wars. She does not, however, deny that the warlords of Liberia and Somalia sought power in order to control significant revenue streams.