Violent Eruptions: Natural Disasters, War, and Peace
Eastin, Joshua C.
MetadataShow full item record
Do natural disasters increase the prospects for peace or do they exacerbate civil war? Do these events generate either of these outcomes systematically? Under what conditions? This dissertation addresses these questions in a comprehensive investigation of natural disasters' effects on the trajectory of civil conflict. In so doing, this dissertation aims to increase both theoretical and practical understanding regarding the relationship between environmental phenomena, the state, and war. As a growing body of scientific evidence links global climate change to increases in the frequency and severity of climatic disasters, and as these "natural" disasters occur disproportionately in countries already prone to civil conflict, such knowledge is pressing. I argue that natural disasters act as exogenous shocks that create opportunities for violent political mobilization. These opportunities arise from the human security and livelihood costs disasters impose, and the perceived injustices generated over post-disaster re-distributions of wealth. Corrupt and discriminatory political institutions aggravate these effects, and further enhance the capacity of anti-state challengers to coerce, co-opt, and induce public cooperation. The outcome can both perpetuate civil conflict and increase the level of violence within it. However, I suggest that mobilization opportunities similar to those disasters create for insurgents are also available to state military forces waging counterinsurgency. Because the military often takes the lead in responding to and assisting with disaster events, especially in conflict-contested areas, and because the methods employed during these actions mirror counterinsurgency tactics, military forces can exploit these opportunities to heighten public support and cooperation. In the following chapters, I test these arguments with both quantitative and qualitative techniques. I find that disasters' effects on the trajectory of conflict can act as a double-edged sword; these events can heighten insurgents' capacity to challenge the state, but they also counter it because they create opportunities for both the state and insurgent groups to mobilize civilian cooperation and support.
- Political science