Book review! “Crafting Peace” by Caroline Hartzell and Matthew Hoddie

Caroline Hartzell and Matthew Hoddie make an argument that the most robust form of negotiated peace involves a well-designed power or institution sharing agreement between the parties involved in a civil war.  They make this argument in “Crafting Peace” using a statistical analysis of conflict cessation that includes variables covering duration, external intervention and measures of institutional and power sharing.  They expand on the statistical analysis with case studies of Angola and the Philippines, explaining why Angola struggled to come up with a sustained peace agreement and the Philippines were able to find a measure of success in their post-conflict negotiation.

Their core argument is that the success of a negotiated post-conflict settlement is predicated on a mix of power and institution sharing, the involvement of a third party, and the duration of the conflict.  They focus on negotiated settlements since these are analytically different then settlements brokered after military victory, and are thus undertaken while the capacity and willingness to continue fighting still ostensibly exists.  The core challenge in this case is creating a settlement that creates a political and tactical environment where both sides can credibly demonstrate that they are bought into the process (both are invested in the risk of negotiation), and that they are both able to maintain a credible threat to the other through the state institutions that they are sharing.  In effect, Hartzell and Hoddie are arguing that with the help of external actors and a shorter duration of warfare a power sharing agreement that gives all parties access to institutional control creates a credible commitment to the negotiation process and a credible threat should one of the parties defect.

One way they describe this process is to look at how a military could either be shared by both sides, or how the disarmament and demobilization process could create an integrated national military.  Even if one party is not put in charge of the military institutions they will at least have partisans in the military ranks who would be willing to break ranks if the negotiation breaks down.  This provides a threat to one party to negotiate in good faith, and provides support to the other party knowing that if the negotiation breaks down they will not be in a tactically disadvantaged position.  By having both sides buy into the pooled risk that comes with negotiating an end to violence, instead of pursuing military victory, there is a greater likelihood that both parties will stick with a negotiation until an acceptable balance of power and institutional control are reached.

They illustrate this process with a set of statistical models that are central to their argument, then use case studies of Angola and the Philippines to provide qualitative evidence.  The statistical analysis is helpful in terms of formalizing their logic, although it runs into problems when we interrogate their results and analysis.  Their relatively small sample size does not lend itself to regression analysis, which they use to identify the salient variables in their argument (power/institution sharing, war duration, third party intervention); in their analysis of their findings they gloss over the fact that their core variable, institution/power sharing, is not statistically significant.  Far more significant are duration and third party intervention, which calls into question they way they coded their most important variable.  They do a better job of dealing with this problem when they use a hazard model and measure time to failure of a peace agreement as a function of power sharing, duration, and third party.  An alternative method for statistical testing in medium-n datasets could be a chi-square distribution that only looks at institution and power sharing and settlement duration.

They make a stronger argument when they unpack the peace processes in Angola and the Philippines; by demonstrating the ways that security dilemmas and credible threats/commitments evolved in each case, it was clearer to me where the problems associated with decision optimality come into play during a negotiated peace.  The inherent problem with this method is that is creates a very in-depth look at the peace process, but does not provide easily generalizable results that can be replicated in other cases.

Overall the book does a good job of identifying the general theories of decision making that come up in a negotiated peace process, particularly with regard to decision optimization during power/institution sharing negotiations.  The authors qualitatively help the reader see where prisoner’s dilemmas and security dilemmas occur, and explain why parties to the conflict would be willing to walk away from the table from a logical standpoint.  Even in its weaker area, the statistical analysis, the authors provide a good blue print for creating a proxy variable for institution/power sharing; while not statistically significant, it at least has an expected positive correlation with the success of peace settlements.  “Crafting Peace” takes what is often a case-study driven field and provides a solid effort at a mixed method approach to formalizing our understanding of power sharing agreements in negotiated settlements to civil war.

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