POL208Y5 Lecture Notes - Lecture 9: Syrian Civil War, Russian Civil War
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Tayyaba Shahzad POL208
Slide 9 – Internal conflict
Internal conflict: civil war
- Although separate, domestic conflicts often involve international dimensions.
- Definition: conflict between organized political groups within a failed state.
- civilians are often intentionally targeted and subjected to atrocities (including rape)
- In ethnic conflicts, there’s a goal of ethnic leaning (removal of rival group from contested
Causes of civil war
A. ideological/social: to overthrow a regime, to demand more rights (social and economic
justice) ex. democratization in Libya and Syria
B. Territorial: to obtain autonomy or independence over a territory.
C. Ethnic: to create an ethnic-nation state (self-determination, right to political expression)
- Syrian civil war: causalities over 220,000 (atrocities, civilian victims), economy lost a lot
of money, poverty levels rise and collapse of health care and infrastructure (state failure)
and refugee crisis.
- IMP: when a government collapse and authority is delegitimized, how will new political
authority come about? Through affiliating oneself with one’s own ethnicity?
- Economic: to contest, acquire or secure resources (Nigerian oil, Guatemalan land)
- Political Power: leaders can embrace extreme positions and/or incite violence to
maintain power (elites using gov’t for personal gain)
State’s inability to address grievances peacefully (correlation between internal conflict and
economy) – also state failure (see below)
- Poorer countries are less efficient in providing goods, tend to be corrupt politically
resulting in a lot of injustice, and they have high unemployment rates, which can fuel
movements challenging the state.
*other contributing factors of internal conflict are resources, territory, past conflicts (historical
animosity) and technology.
3 Mechanisms of transforming an internal into an international conflict
1. diffusion: spreading tactics through observation and copying (Tunisia -> Egypt -> Syria)
2. Intervention: the active involvement of outside actors in domestic conflicts or wars.
3. Spillover: the spread of conflict across international borders (ex. from Croatia to Bosnia
and from Libya to Iraq).
Two mechanism of transforming an international conflict into an internal one.
1. Domestic destabilization: after the 2003 invasion, Iraq plunged into a secretarian civil
2. Foreign-policy induces domestic crises: World War 1 defeats for Russia resulted in the
communist revolution which turned into the Russian civil war.
- A state exists to provide public goods (rule of law, education, public health) to people
living within the parameter (Borders) and to facilitate, organize and channel their interest.
When this is not provided, it results in a failed state.
- Some characteristics include the loss of the monopoly of violence, the inability by state
to control the border, the absence of security (rule of law) and order, the existence of