This paper is based upon Professor Collier'a studies of civil wars across the globe, 1965-1999. Additionally he follows the economies of African states, which have had a good many civil conflicts. He wrote a most sensible chapter in a textbook I read, based on these years of research:
"Economic Causes of Civil Conflict and Their Implications for Policy" in Turbulent Peace: The Challenges of Managing Internal Conflict. Edited by Crocker, Hampson, Aall. US Institute of Peace Press.
And of course he kept going. He has two books out for mainstream readers.
He found that the political language of civil conflict pops up everywhere. The reasons for grievance never correlated to actual conflict--in short, everyone complains, but it doesn't always lead to war. Some citizens in some countries have extremely good reasons to complain, and still don't have civil conflict. But research showed that civil war occurs only under consistent economic phenomena. These phenomena were:
1. Dependence on primary commodity imports. (they raise cotton, coffee, diamonds, oil, opium, et cetera, but not enough foodstuffs, or goods used at home).
2. Low national income.
3. The ability of the insurrectionists to finance their disorder.
Collier says that "economic analysis sees rebellion as more of a form of organized crime." This is not a huge leap for us, because the legitimate government is at least titularly in charge, and creates a state-run justice system (see Thomas Hobbes post from last week). Furthermore, the disorder against life and property is, in a specific sense, against the stability that the state is supposed to confer.
Now he goes on to explain about the language of grievance versus the dry quality of economics:
Imagine, for a moment, that you are a leader of a rebel organization, needing to offer an explanation of your goals. What are the likely elements? Most surely, they will be a litany of grievances against the government, for its oppression, unfairness, and perhaps victimization of some part of the population that your organization claims to represent. That is, your language will be the language of protest. You will style your rebellion as a protest movement driven to the extremity of violence . . . almost certainly, the government will have responded to your insurgency with an incompetent counterinsurgency campaign. "Almost certainly" because counterinsurgency is very difficult. . . . .
Rebellion is large-scale predation of productive economic activities. . . . However, [the economist's] view is so at odds with the popular discourse on conflict that there is temptation to dismiss it as fanciful. The techniques of economics do not help its arguments: compared with the compelling historical detail produced by histories of protest . . .In other words, grievance creates a story that can sway the emotions. But underneath it all, there's a way to grab capital and power for the "aggrieved" side, which doesn't sound as good no matter who says it.
Unlike organized crime, rebel movements need good international public relations and they need to motivate their recruits to kill. They need good international public relations because most of them are partially dependent upon international financial support. They need to motivate their recruits to kill because, unlike a mafia, a predatory rebel organization is periodically going to have to fight for its survivial against government forces. A rebel organization cannot afford to be regarded as criminal . . . Grievance is to a rebel organization what image is to a business.
While [grievance] is morally interesting to observers--is the cause just?--it is of no practical importance. . . . The economic theory of conflict argues that the motivation of conflict in unimportant; what matters is whether the organization can sustain itself financially. . . . Regardless of why the organization is fighting, it can fight only if it is financially viable.
It is the feasibility of predation that determines the risk of conflict.--
So, the question is, can you fund your war?
In Sierra Leone, Angola, and elsewhere, civil conflict is funded by portable, hideable, and valuable diamonds. In Iraq, the insurgency is funded by the very liquid commodity of oil. This has also been true in Chechnya and Dagestan, where Russia is fighting a secessionist movement with some Islamic connections. In Afghanistan, opium pays for terror and Taliban.
In Nigeria, insurrection is funded by oil. It is also funded by the Nigerian scams, diverted but legitimate income from oil companies, shippers, and the like--and by lawsuits. Mostly the oil.
Let's talk about the FARC in Colombia, which Collier (2001) says "has grown to employ around twelve thousand people. . . . The FARC earns around $700 million per year from drugs and kidnapping. . . ."
In Israel and Palestine, in Ulster, conflict is funded by the remittances of rich people living elsewhere.
In Mexico, the drug war is taking on overtones of civil war, as police officers and innocent bystanders are massacred. More than one organization is downed only to rise again with new leaders. Each fights for regional control, ruining local stability. But as long as they are fighting among themselves, they are not as busy suborning national government. The civil conflict in Mexico is funded by purchasers of marijuana, cocaine, and methamphetamine. The U.S. is the biggest purchaser because of proximity. However, drugs such as heroin or cocaine sell for a much higher price in Europe, so some illegal trade via Mexico is going there.
The counter-insurgency is also funded by the U.S. in part. Agencies lend expertise and dollars to a huge effort to knock these cartels down. It would not be good for us to have a failed state with a long border adjacent to us.
The only thing missing is the language of grievance. Until that political language enters, it is states versus markets. And when grievance comes in, we'll call it civil war--but it's still states versus markets. The market is definitely strong enough to fund civil conflict in the Caribbean, Colombia, and Mexico. As we see.
It is interesting to note for funding civil conflict: the worldwide drug trade, as of 2003, earns an estimated 1% of world GDP. That's more than enough to tip toward civil conflict in states that do not have other industries--see condition 1 above. In states such as Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Jamaica, and Colombia, or in pockets thereof, these make up close to 100% of national or local GDP. These states are all failing.
Just as these things relate to world trade, they also relate to local trade. I'll talk about that tomorrow, using some of Professor Collier's principles.
Two articles below go international! Look beyond our borders to see what's universal!
The third and fourth feature Mr. Collier himself.