The Friday Puzzler is back!
Between 2012 and 2015 I ran a Friday feature called the Puzzler. The idea was simple. I would pose a puzzle related to political violence that caught my eye. It could be serious, silly, easy or hard to solve. The one common thread was that it had to be interesting.
I’m going to re-inaugurate our beloved Puzzler by going back to the basics. Here are 5 major patterns surrounding political violence that we are beginning to observe today. Your thoughts, as always, are most welcome.
- The internationalization of civil wars. The percent of civil wars in which outside states militarily intervened has risen since the mid-1990s. In 1995 it was less than 5% of all civil wars. Today it is around 25%. Why are external actors increasingly willing to meddle, militarily, in the internal conflicts of other states?
- Civil wars are getting longer and are more likely to end in a one-sided victory. The 1990s was the decade of negotiated settlements when many longstanding civil wars (think Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, Cambodia, Mozambique) ended in compromise agreements. That is no longer the case. Why the shift away from settlements and towards more war? And why are civil wars getting longer?
- Annual deaths from political violence are dropping. This statistic makes Steven Pinker happy. Despite the fact that the number of civil wars has increased since the early 2000s, annual deaths from political violence have decreased. This is true for both combatants and non-combatants. Why is political violence killing fewer and fewer people?
- The decline of military coups. Military coups are becoming increasingly less common. Since the early 1990s, generals have been less willing to take on their leaders. Why?
- The rise of non-violent protest. Non-violent protests, however, have increased. Autocrats are now more likely to be deposed by their citizens than they are by their generals. Why the shift from military resistance to public resistance?