January 29, 2015


Yes, Oil Is Behind a Lot of Wars : Economists check the claim that a thirst for oil motivates interventions in civil wars, and they find out it's right. (NATHAN COLLINS JAN 28, 2015, Pacific Standard)

 It's rare for researchers to focus on economic considerations.

That's a serious oversight, argue academics Vincenzo Bove, Kristian Skrede Gleditsch, and Petros Sekeris in the Journal of Conflict Resolution, especially considering that external powers--states and international organizations such as the United Nations--intervened in two of every three civil wars in the second half of the 20th century. "This is all the more remarkable as economic incentives are often held to exert a crucial role on the onset and duration of civil war," they write.

To investigate how economic incentives affect the chances of intervention, the trio constructed an economic model of conflict in which there are a small number of oil-producing nations, one of which is in the midst of a civl war, and a large number of countries with no oil to pump out of the ground. Intuitively, their analysis suggests that the richer a government is in oil reserves and the fewer oil-producing states there are, the more likely other states will intervene, even if the intervening state is itself an oil-producing nation. Similarly, states are more likely to intervene when they import more oil.

It remained to be seen, however, whether those predictions are actually borne out in the data on civil wars. To find out, the researchers collected data on civil war interventions, oil reserves, oil prices over time, and a number of other factors. Taking into account factors like a potential intervener's ability to swing the war in their own favor, the team confirmed their predictions--third parties are more likely to enter into civil conflicts when they have sufficient military power and are thirsty for oil, and, of course, when there's a great deal of oil at stake.

Posted by at January 29, 2015 3:33 PM

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