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Alliance Formation in Civil Wars Paperback – January 17, 2013

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Editorial Reviews


"Although many scholars have studied the origins of interstate alliances, no one has answered the question of how warring groups choose their allies in civil wars - until now. Using insights from realist international relations theory, Fotini Christia convincingly shows that balance-of-power considerations drive the alliance decisions of armed groups, which simultaneously try to maximize their chances of victory and their share of the spoils. When these two goals conflict, groups switch sides with little conscience or consistency: today's valued friends are often yesterday's deadly foes. Drawing on extensive field work in Afghanistan and Bosnia, as well as statistical analysis of all multiparty civil wars, Christia's fine book is a model of multimethod research that will make a lasting contribution to the literatures on alliance formation and civil wars."
Alexander Downes, George Washington University

"Christia provides a rigorous and compelling explanation for the puzzle of alliance formation and group fragmentation in multiparty civil wars. She demonstrates that they are driven by balancing rather than ideological or identity considerations, and shows that 'identity narratives' are ex-post instrumentalizations. A striking demonstration of how to blend theories of international relations with in-depth field research in hard places, this book is an important contribution to our understanding of the dynamics of civil wars."
Stathis N. Kalyvas, Yale University

"Just when it seemed that the balance of power had become an old-fashioned concept in international politics, it turns out that it is alive and well as the crucial factor shaping alliance strategies in today's civil wars. Although warring groups from the Balkans to Afghanistan may justify their alliances in terms of shared cultural identities, Fotini Christia shows that choices of friends and foes are in fact decisively shaped by tactical calculations based on power politics. Her diverse research skills, ranging from field interviews with ruthless warlords to statistical analyses of civil war datasets, make this a lively and rigorous contribution to the study of war."
Jack Snyder, Columbia University

"The overarching argument put forth by Christia is that rebel groups, driven by elite desire to survive and achieve postwar political control, will choose to align with other warring actors that will improve their chances of victory ... the detailed accounts presented in the case studies are a welcome and valuable contribution to this new literature. Summing up: recommended."
M. Olson Lounsbery, East Caroline University, Choice

"Although some may argue that Christia's neo-realist framework is not comprehensive because it undervalues the ideological and psychological dimensions of civil wars, the author's argument is both persuasive and fundamental to understanding alliance formation and disintegration. The author's observation in the book's conclusion that the alliance shifts in Iraq's Anbar province in favour of the Iraqi government (and then against it) have been driven by relative power considerations seems to be borne out by events since the book's publication. Anyone interested in or responsible for policies aimed at resolving multi-party civil wars stands to gain from close consideration of Christia's argument."
H. R. McMaster, Survival

Book Description

This book explains why Afghan warring groups constantly aligned with and double-crossed each other, and develops a theory on such behaviors in multiparty civil wars in general. It shows that intergroup alliances and intra-group fractionalization are determined by the distribution of relative power among warring groups, rather than by ethnicity, race, ideology, or religion. This book uses interviews with warlords, mujahedin, and convicted war criminals, among others, in Afghanistan and Bosnia, and tests its claims against fifty-three cases of multiparty civil wars.

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