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How Do Natural Resources Influence Civil War? Evidence from Thirteen Cases

How Do Natural Resources Influence Civil War? Evidence from Thirteen Cases

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Michael L. Ross
Michael L. Ross

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07/29/2012

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International Organization Foundation
How Do Natural Resources Influence Civil War? Evidence from Thirteen CasesAuthor(s): Michael L. RossSource:
International Organization,
Vol. 58, No. 1 (Winter, 2004), pp. 35-67Published by: Cambridge University Press on behalf of the International OrganizationFoundationStable URL:
Accessed: 29/09/2008 10:58
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How Do Natural ResourcesInfluenceCivil War? EvidencefromThirteenCases
MichaelL. Ross
AbstractRecent studies havefound thatnaturalesourcesandcivil wararehighlycorrelated.Yetthecausal mechanisms behindthecorrelationare notwellunder-stood,inpartbecause dataon civil warsis scarceand ofpoorquality.In thisarticleIexaminethirteen recent civil warstoexplorethemechanismsbehindthe resource-conflict correlation.Idescribe sevenhypothesesabouthowresourcesmayinfluenceaconflict,specifytheobservableimplicationsofeach,andreportwhichmechanismscanbeobservedinasampleof thirteencivilwarsin whichnaturalresourceswere"mostlikely"to haveplayeda role.I find that twoof themostwidelycitedcausalmechanismsdo notappearobevalid;thatoil,nonfuelminerals,anddrugsarecaus-allylinked toconflict,butlegalagriculturalcommoditiesarenot;andthatresourcewealthand civil war are linkedbyavarietyofmechanisms,includingseveralthatothershad notidentified.
Recent studies havefound that naturalresourcesandcivilwar arehighlycorre-lated.1Accordingto Collier andHoeffler,2statesthatrelyheavilyontheexportofprimaryommodities ace ahigherrisk ofcivil warthanresource-poortates.FearonandLaitin,and deSoysa,3eachusing uniquedatasets,find thatoil-exportingstatesaremorelikelytosufferfrom civil wars.Fearonalsoshowsthatthepresenceofcertaintypesof resources(gemstonesandnarcotics)tends tomakewars lastlon-ger;4similarly, DoyleandSambanisdemonstratehatcivilwarsarehardero endwhentheyoccurincountriesthatdependonprimarycommodityexports.5Buhaugand Gatesshow thatthepresenceof mineralresourcesin a conflictzonetendstoincreaseaconflict'sgeographicalscope.6
Fortheircomments on earlierdrafts,Iamgratefulto PaulCollier,J.R.Deshazo,PierreEnglebert,BarbaraGeddes,AnkeHoeffler,MacartanHumphreys,PhilippeLeBillon,RoyLicklider,DanPosner,KenShultz,andLibbyWood.1. Forareviewofrecentfindingson nationalresourcesand civilwar,seeRoss2004.
2. CollierandHoeffler1998and2002a. 3. SeeFearon ndLaitin2003;deSoysa2002.
4. Fearon 2004.5.Doyleand Sambanis2000.6.BuhaugandGates 2002.InternationalOrganization58,Winter2004,pp.35-67
?2004byTheIOFoundation.
DOI:10.1017/S002081830458102X
 
36InternationalOrganizationThere islittleagreementamongtheseand other scholarsonwhynaturalre-sourceshave these effects:mostscholarshave littletosayabout causalmechanisms-theprocessesthat link"resources"o"conflict."Journalistsoftenclaimthatresources have "fueled"agivenconflict,but arevagueabout how thisoccurred.Identifyingthe mechanismsthatlink resourcestocivilwarwould make thesetheoriesmorecompleteandpersuasive:statisticalcorrelationscanonlytake onesofar.Specifyingthe mechanismwouldalsoaddress threeproblemsin thenaturalresources-civil warsliterature.First,it couldhelpresolvenaggingconcerns aboutendogeneityandspuriousness.The naturalresource-civilwarcorrelation,for ex-ample, mightbetheoppositeofwhatitappears:civilwarsmight producere-sourcedependencebyforcingacountry'smanufacturingectorto flee whileleavingitsresourcesector-which islocation-specificand cannotdepart-asthemajorforce in theeconomy bydefault. Eventhoughmostscholarsemploylaggedinde-pendentvariablesintheirregressions,thismethod doesnot rule outreverse cau-sality:because civil wars donotofficially"begin"untiltheyhave crossed somethreshold ofviolence,they mightbeprecededby yearsoflow-levelhostilities thatdrive offmanufacturingirms,producingahigherlevelof resourcedependencebeforethecivil war is coded ascommencing.Thenatural resource-civilwar correlationcouldalsobespurious:both civilwar andresourcedependencemightbeindependentlycausedbysome unmea-sured thirdvariable,suchas aweakrule oflaw.Astatewheretherule oflawisweakmightbeunableto attractnvestmentin itsmanufacturingector,and hencewoulddependmoreheavilyonresourceexports;thisstatemightalsofaceaheight-enedrisk ofcivil warthrougha differentprocess.Theresultcould beastatisti-cally significantcorrelationbetween resourcedependenceandcivilwar,eventhoughneitherfactor would cause theother.Second,identifyinghe causalmechanismscouldhelpsettledisagreementsmongthestatistical studiesoverwhich resourcesmatter,andwhatdimensions ofcon-flicttheytendtoinfluence.CollierandHoeffler,7forexample,findthatprimarycommodities of alltypes-includingoil,minerals,andagriculturalgoods-arelinked totheonset ofwar.BothFearonandLaitin,anddeSoysa disputethisclaim8andsuggestthatonlyoilmatters.Collier,Hoeffler,andS(iderbomsuggestthatprimarycommodities have noinfluenceon thedurationofconflict,aclaimthatisapparentlycontradictedbyDoyleandSambanis,and Stedman.9Fearon,mean-while,suggeststhat contrabandcommodities,suchasdiamondsanddrugs,makewars last
longer.10
A closerlook at casestudiesmayhelpresolve some ofthesecontradictions.
7.Collier and Hoeffler 2002a.8. SeeFearon and Laitin2003;deSoysa2002.9.SeeCollier, Hoeffler,andSiderbom2001;Doyleand Sambanis2000;Stedman 2001.10. Fearonforthcoming.

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