Insurgency and the Opening of Peace Process
The article aims to develop a theory to explain when insurgents and governments start negotiations and what factors influence the decision to start negotiations. The author is not interested in whether the peace process end successfully with an enduring peace or not. The main focus is interested in the conditions that lead insurgents and governments to the negotiation table.
Using a game theory model, Bapat assumes that governments do not take insurgents seriously in early stages. When peace offer of the government is rejected by the insurgent groups, fighting continues until one side is defeated or an acceptable peace offer is made.
In the early stages of fighting, insurgents are more likely to accept negotiation offer. However, governments prefer not to recognize insurgents in the early stages of fighting and denounce them as terrorists, traitors etc. Governments do not offer a peace deal at the beginning of the insurgency because they do not want to miss the chance of wiping out the insurgency completely. As more time elapses, insurgents gain both military and financial strength. Thus insurgents become capable of waging longer wars. It is due to this mutual mistrust that prolong possible negotiation. That is why Bapat notes that negotiation is most likely to occur at about four years. After four years, the hazard of negotiation decreases.
Bapat discusses four conditions that increase the likelihood of negotiation. First condition is about balance of power between actors. When the fighting parties are locked in a situation where neither insurgents nor the government can defeat each other, parties are in a hurting stalemate. In such a situation, cost of continuing war outweighs the negotiation. Second, domestic institutions are considered as another condition for negotiation. Democratic leaders have to take public pressure into consideration but authoritarian rulers need support of few people. That is why democratic leaders tend to end the conflicts earlier. Third, before negotiations start parties have the incentive to misrepresent their power and resolve. True information is released when parties actually fight and thus power and resolve of parties are revealed. The more information is made available to the parties, the more likely negotiations start. Fourth, because no authority exists to enforce requirements of a negotiation parties are suspicious whether other party’s commitments are credible. This condition may increase the likelihood of fighting, even if negotiation is in their advantage. Fifth, indivisibility is another major condition. In order for a settlement to take place the issue that is fought for must be divisible.
The author finds support for most of his expectations. His executive constraints variable indicate that heavily constrained leaders are less likely to destroy the insurgents through force. He concludes that ‘leaders with total discretion have much greater capacity to fight insurgents than heavily constrained leaders that cannot pay the costs of war’. Moreover, power variable shows that powerful states are more likely to crush insurgencies quickly. Bapat finds that if the insurgents can survive for approximately four years, the group is likely to sustain itself well into the future.
The author assumes that increasing uncertainty in conflict environment can accelerate the onset of peace process. His findings support this assumption. He finds that likelihood of negotiation is at its highest point after about 20 years. However, if uncertainty is high, the likelihood of a peace process is on average higher. With the maximum amount of uncertainty, the hazard of negotiation peaks approximately at the 12-year mark’.
The main finding of this article is that if actors cannot manage conflicts well in the early years (ten years), probability of an eventual settlement diminishes.