Civil Wars Vs Terrorism

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Civil wars occur a lot more than most may think, and with as much media coverage that there is nowadays, it doesnt seem rare anymore to have a terrorist attack. These are two very sad events. A civil war is defined as a war in which the main participants are within the same state, such as the government and a rebel group (pg. 237 of textbook). Terrorism is defined as the use or threatened use of violence against noncombatant targets by individuals or nonstate groups for political ends (pg. 264 of textbook). Civil wars and terrorism do not appear to be the same on the outside, but with further digging, it is easy to see how the two might go hand-in-hand. These two groups definitely have their differences, but they share very similar characteristics during bargaining failure.

In civil wars, most of the time, there is a rebel group fighting against the government. There may also be a rebel group fighting against another rebel group with a different ideology. Scholars say that in order for a war to be considered a civil war there must be at least 1,000 deaths related to the war, and the deaths have to be made up of both sides. Therefore that means that a tyrant ruler can not poison their civilians and kill 1,000s and call it a civil war. From 1945 to 1999, interstate wars were responsible for the deaths of 3 million people, while civil wars killed more than 16 million (pg. 237 of textbook), civil wars can be extremely costly for civilians. A main cause of civil war is a group using violence to fight for, typically, a political interest. Sometimes, foreign countries will get involved and help a rebel group because they share the same ideology.

For example, a foreign country may send aide through money, resources, troops, training, or sometimes even sanctuary. A foreign country getting involved in a civil war can get very complicated. Another negative impact of a civil war is there may be a lot of refugees trying to flee the country and move into another country. That problem in itself creates a domino effect of problems with it. This can create a burden for neighboring states that feel like they have to bring these people in. There is typically a crime and conflict increase that come with the people as well. Since there are many factors that influence foreign states, the United Nations describes civil wars as threats to international peace and security. Because of this, they can send peacekeepers to try and intervene when necessary. The textbook says, of the 69 peacekeeping operations by the UN in 1948-2014, 39 were conflict within one state and 12 were for both international and civil dimensions. This shows that even though a civil wars physically occurs in one state/country, does not mean that it only involves that state, many foreign sides can get involved.

If rebelling against a government causes this much death and controversy, then why do it? Typically, rebel groups have had enough of social injustice within their country. Rebel groups can be created through people having similar interest when their economic or social-well being is harmed. They have three options: try to leave the state, change the states policies, or try to take over the state. This obviously creates a lot of conflict in territory, policy, and regime. When a rebel group wants to own their own land from the territory, they are called Separatists. This will take place when a group thinks they can do a better job of governing themselves than the current government they are under. On the flip side, rebel groups are called irredentist if they want to take a piece of territory and attach it onto another country. This will happen when a neighboring country has the same beliefs that the rebel group may be fighting for. For example, this happened in Great Britain when there was decades of conflict with the Catholic group of Northern Ireland. This group wanted to join with the rest of Ireland because they were alike, as they were majority Catholic. These groups are motivated by their greed or grievances. They try to persuade the government by sometimes using violence to get what they want, or they may try to take over the government altogether.

Sometimes countries have problems maintaining people who are unsatisfied with their country. The groups who are unhappy either get a start from a popular fan base, someone who has a lot of money, or someone who is high up in the government. There are three factors that rebel groups use to form and to take action. The first factor is the group explanation. This means that a group who strongly shares the same views tend to trust each other better, which can make them more powerful and harder to control. Another factor is at the country level. The way the country typically handles their conflict can tell a lot about how a rebel group may handle conflict. If a country normally handles things violently, a rebel group is more likely to handle things violently as well, and vise versa. At the country level, money is also another factor. In a poorer country, they have more reason to be unhappy than richer countries. Richer countries can also afford a better defense, which may discourage rebel groups from trying to take it over. Finally, the last factor to civil war is internationally. There are international factors because a foreign country may agree with a rebel side and try to help them. This can create a proxy war. A proxy war is when two foreign countries fight because they side with two different sides in a civil war. For example, this happened during the Cold War. China and the Soviet Union supported Communist rebels and the United States supported rebels in Pro-Soviet Union governments.

While there are many factors into civil war, there are also many factors into terrorism that differ. The main difference between terrorism and civil war is that terrorists want to instill fear into the civilians while rebel groups are fighting for what they think is right. Another difference is that terrorism can happen internationally. Although terrorism is most common in its host state, it is not uncommon in foreigns states either. Terrorist groups are typically much smaller and less centrally governed than rebel groups, which means they are less capable of starting a civil war. Terrorist groups are very dangerous and violent and can make recruiting for them very hard. They are considered extremist and this means that their views and the way they carry them out are not so popular. They will randomly attack businesses and diplomatic missions, for the most part. For example, Al Qaeda during 9/11 targeted the Pentagon, World Trade Center, and the White House. Terrorist groups are very extreme and will match that with their extreme actions.

There are some differences between terrorism and civil wars/rebel groups as discussed, but there are also similarities. The main similarity is that they result from a bargaining failure. There are three bargaining failures that help civil wars and terrorism occur. The bargaining failures for both groups come from incomplete information, commitment problems, and indivisibilities.

Incomplete information means that either the government or the group did not have all the correct information to respond in the right way. A big part of incomplete information for both these groups is typically the government does not know the actual size of the rebel/terrorist group they are going up against. Terrorist groups tend to over exaggerate their size. This can lead to their threats not being so credible. For example, there were plenty of signs from Bin Laden about 9/11, but they were not taken very seriously because there were other more credible threats that the FBI was dealing with. Another difference between these two groups and incomplete information, is rebel groups are more likely to communicate what they want than terrorist groups. Terrorist typically act on surprise and very unpredictable. Incomplete information occurs in both of these groups.

Another factor they share is the commitment problems between these groups and the government. Disputes of these extremes can be very hard to solve and can create a long and costly war. If it happens to get to the point where they can talk out an agreement, a big problem still allies. How does the government know the rebel/terrorist group will be truthful and really lay down their arms and vice versa? How do these groups know the government wont take severe action after theyve laid down their arms? A government is going to want these groups to disarm and demobilize. The groups are going to want the government to agree to give them what they want. These disputes rarely end in a peaceful manner. Typically, one side will completely fight for what they want and win it all. Since the rebels and terrorists have no central power this makes them weak for negotiations. They can not be sure that every member of the group will obey them. There may be people in the group who refuse to lay down their arms even if peace is settled. That could create another rebel/terrorist group and take everything back to square one. This can create commitment problems.

The third factor that these two groups have in common is their bargaining failure through indivisibilities. This seems to be the toughest of the three, because sometimes the reason the groups are fighting are for undividable causes. For example, a group may be fighting for a certain religion and that is very hard to negotiate. This is why suicide bombers do what they do, they show the government that they would rather give up their life for what they believe in than to give up what they are fighting for. This puts the government in a sticky situation, because if they give in to just one group who is fighting for what they believe in, it could encourage other groups to then try and fight for what they believe in also. This shows the government as very weak for easily giving into a group. There is a great example of this that occured in Russia. Russia fought in two extremely costly civil wars because the Chechens wanted to break away from them. There would have been less of a cost to Russia if they would have just let them go. However, there are more than 100 cultures in Russia and if they were to let the first group go easy, that could have influenced the other cultures to do the same. Indivisibilities are the hardest part for the government, but they are where rebels and terrorists are greatly alike.

Civil wars involve rebel groups and terrorist attacks involve terrorists. A main difference between the two groups is rebel groups are fighting for a cause in their own country and may be more willing to peacefully agree with a government. A terrorist group on the other hand is going to attack civilians and use surprise violence to try and achieve what they want. Both groups do not have a central power so they can be a little sloppy. They both have similarities with the three bargaining factors. After further digging, the differences and similarities between the two events can be made clear.

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Civil Wars vs Terrorism. (2019, May 08). Retrieved March 2, 2024 , from

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