The Relationship Between Geography and Civil War

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Introduction
The scientific study of civil war is always improving and always expanding and one major aspect to consider when studying civil wars is the relationship between civil wars and geography. Three key articles to the findings of relationships between civil wars and geography are “The Geography of Civil War" (2002) by Halvard Buhaug and Scott Gates, “Local Determinants of African Civil Wars" (2006) by Halvard Buhaug and Jan Ketil Rød, and “Geography as Motivation and Opportunity" (2009) by Nils B. Weidmann. First, in “The Geography of Civil War” Gates and Buhang research how strategic aspirations of the rebel groups in civil wars and factors of geography affect the location of the conflict in relation to the capital of the country and the overall size of the conflict area. Gates and Buhang believe this is an important area of study because they claim that “when it comes to exploring determinants of the location of conflicts, little or no systematic effort has been made”(419.) Gates and Buhang find that the size of the conflict (scope) is shaped by location to a border, natural resources, and conflict duration. Meanwhile they find that the distance to the capital of the fighting is influenced by the scope, size of country, whether the rebel group is trying to secede and if the rebel group has a certain identity, for example ethnic or religious. Secondly, in their article about the local determinants of African civil wars Halvard Buhaug and Jan Ketil Rød (2006) claim that the disaggregated research design (letting grids within a state be the unit of analysis) is the better design to look at the independent variables that cause civil wars. Buhaug and Rød (2006) claim that studying civil war onset at the country level overlooks some notions of how wars are started because independent variables can vary significantly within a state’s geography. Buhaug and Rød (2006) find that territorial conflict is more common in lightly populated regions near state borders, away from the capital, and with smooth terrain. They also find that conflict over the governance of a state is more common near the capital, with greater populations and near diamond fields. Finally, in “Local Determinants of African Civil Wars" Nils B. Weidmann (2009) asks whether territory matters as a motivation for conflict, an opportunity for conflict or both. Weidmann (2009) states that it is common knowledge in the studies of civil war that geographically concentrated groups are more likely to have civil conflicts but there is no reasoning as to why. Wiedmann (2009) finds that, on the territorial domain, opportunity rather than motivation is a factor for civil war onset. Through their many theoretical arguments, the authors of these three articles make hypotheses on their areas of geographical civil war study, they then test these hypotheses over their data and then look to see if their hypotheses are supported and what the impact of these hypotheses are. These three articles...

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