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King Makers and Peace Breakers: International Intervention and Post-War Violence

Alexei Abrahams - University of Toronto
Brandon Merrell - Yale University

Versions of this paper were presented at the 2019 ISA Annual Meeting, 2019 MPSA Annual Meeting, and in 2019 at Ohio State University. A .pdf copy is available here.

The paper relates to our broader book project, The Governance Market: Insurgency, Civil Conflict, and the Accountable State. An introduction to the volume is available here.


Foreign powers often intervene in civil conflicts to quell violent insurgencies or oust despotic rulers. Unfortunately, even victorious interventions often give rise to post-war increases in violence and abuse. Why do efforts intended to restore internal stability so often backfire? We argue that civilians, governments, and insurgents are mutual participants in a governance market. Within this setting, civilians prosper when insurgents and incumbents compete over the provision of governance. Foreign intervention can, when improperly calibrated, disrupt this competition and restore monopoly conditions. Even when intervention falls short of decisively favoring one side, it may decouple belligerents from their constituents, thereby transforming the political competition into a purely martial one and creating a risk of anarchy. We support the theory with evidence from several recent civil conflicts and show that the framework offers a parsimonious platform for studying the relationship between conflict intervention, durable peace, and domestic accountability.