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Civilianizing Civil Conflict: Civilian Defense Militias and the Logic of Violence in Intra-State Conflict

Clayton, Govinda, Thomson, Andrew (2016) Civilianizing Civil Conflict: Civilian Defense Militias and the Logic of Violence in Intra-State Conflict. International Studies Quarterly, 60 (3). pp. 499-510. ISSN 0020-8833. E-ISSN 1468-2478. (doi:10.1093/isq/sqv011) (KAR id:49973)


This paper examines how civilian defense militias shape violence during civil war. Civilian defense forces are a sedentary and defensive form of pro-government militia that incumbents often use to harness the participation of civilians during a counterinsurgency campaign. We argue that civilian defense forces reduce the problem of insurgent identification, leading to a reduction in state violence against civilians. However, we also claim that these actors undermine civilian support for insurgents, which leads to an increase in rebel violence against civilians and overall intensification of conflict. A statistical analysis of government and rebel violence against civilians from 1981 to 2005 and a qualitative assessment of a civilian defense force operating in Iraq from 2005 to 2009 offer strong support for our theoretical claims. These findings provide further insight into pro- government militias and their effects on violence. They also have wider ethical implications for the use of civilian collaborators during civil war.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1093/isq/sqv011
Uncontrolled keywords: Pro-Government Militias, Civilian Defense Forces, Counterinsurgency, Civil War, Conflict Intensity, One-Sided Violence, Violence against Civilians.
Subjects: J Political Science > JZ International relations
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Politics and International Relations
Depositing User: G.D. Clayton
Date Deposited: 01 Aug 2015 08:34 UTC
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2022 00:32 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Clayton, Govinda.

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