Why Peace Fails

The Causes and Prevention of Civil War Recurrence

Charles T. Call

"A systematic, engaging and critical account of commonly used theories and methodologies, while providing a deep understanding of a range of cases that display both the successes and failures of various peace settlements."
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Why does peace fail? More precisely, why do some countries that show every sign of having successfully emerged from civil war fall once again into armed conflict? What explains why peace "sticks" after some wars but not others?

In this illuminating study, Charles T. Call examines the factors behind fifteen cases of civil war recurrence in Africa, Asia, the Caucasus, and Latin America. He argues that widely touted explanations of civil war—such as poverty, conflict over natural resources, and weak states—are far less important than political exclusion. Call’s study shows that inclusion of former opponents in postwar governance plays a decisive role in sustained peace.

Why Peace Fails ultimately suggests that the international community should resist the temptation to prematurely withdraw resources and peacekeepers after a transition from war. Instead, international actors must remain fully engaged with postwar elected governments, ensuring that they make room for former enemies.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Tragedy of Civil War Recurrence
The Importance of This Book
The Central Argument
Contributions to Theory
Research Design and Methodology
Organization of the Book

Part I: Why Peace Fails: Theory

1. What Do We Know about Why Peace Fails?
What We Know about Civil Wars and Ethnic Conflict
Four Approaches to Peacebuilding
Clarifying Concepts: Exclusion, Inclusion, and Legitimacy

2. Is Civil War Recurrence Distinct from Its Onset?: A Quantitative Analysis and the Limits Thereof
A Regression Analysis of Civil War Recurrence
The Contributions and Limitations of Quantitative Methods for Studying Civil Wars

Part II: Examining the Cases

3. Liberia: Exclusion and Civil War Recurrence
The First Civil War
The Onset of Peace
The Second Civil War: A Brief Summary
Charles Taylor’s Exclusionary Behavior
Alternative Explanations
Insights from Liberia’s Second Postwar Peace Process

4. Separatist Recurrences of Civil War
Sudan: The Marginalization of the South
Chechnya: Reneging and Resistance
Georgia and South Ossetia: Integration Backfires
China and Tibet: Compelled from Autonomy
Analyzing Cases of Reneging on Territorial Autonomy

5. Nonseparatist Recurrences of Civil War
Precipitating Exclusionary Behavior
The Central African Republic: Exclusion and State Weakness
Haiti: Political Exclusion and Recurrence
East Timor: Liberation, Statehood, and Exclusion
Zimbabwe: Liberation, Statehood, and Exclusion
Burundi and Rwanda: Chronic Exclusionary Behavior
Alternative Explanations and Conclusions

6. Recurrences That Defy the Argument
Lebanon: Failed Powersharing
Mali: Failed Powersharing
Nicaragua: Externally Driven Recurrence
Peru: Exclusion, Coca, and Rebel Resurgence

7. Making Peace Stick: Inclusionary Politics and Twenty-Seven Nonrecurrent Civil Wars
Inclusion, Powersharing, and Peacebuilding Success
Powersharing and Peace Consolidation: Examining the Pool of Cases
Beyond Powersharing: Inclusionary Behavior and Peace
Peace and Exclusionary Behavior?
International Troops and ‘Frozen’ Conflicts

Part III: Implications for Theory and Practice

8. Conclusions for Theory: Legitimacy-Focused Peacebuilding
The Main Findings of the Book
Rethinking the Aims and Approaches of Peacebuilding
Addressing Limitations

9. Conclusions for Policy and Practice: Can External Actors Build Legitimacy after War?
Why Legitimacy-Building Is Exceptionally Difficult
Beyond Blanket Inclusionary Formulas: Four ‘Moments’ for Key Choices and External Strategy



"Its clear structure, honest discussion of shortcomings, and mixture of methods – as well as its policy debates and recommendations – make this book an invaluable teaching tool. Indubitably, Call makes some significant theoretical contributions, important for scholars and practitioners alike, as civil war recurrences continue to occur."—African Affairs

"Call cites sources that represent the most credible scholarly and professional works available. His research is rigorous, comprehensive, and compelling. It is well articulated and appropriately interwoven, with substantive depth and analysis. His conclusions and recommendations are sound and constructive . . . a must-read for conflict theory scholars, academics in the fields of political science and international studies, and military and government leaders—especially those who shape US policy with fragile states."—Military Review

"A systematic, engaging and critical account of commonly used theories and methodologies, while providing a deep understanding of a range of cases that display both the successes and failures of various peace settlements."—Sicherheit und Frieden (Security and Peace)

"The book’s most valuable contribution can be found in its final chapter where conclusions for policy and practice are discussed. The book closes with a sophisticated analysis of why legitimacy-building by external actors is so difficult, and an invaluable analysis of the four moments in postwar political processes."—Clare Lockhart, Governance

"An impressive, focused examination of a crucial question in the study of political violence."—Political Science Quarterly

"This book takes on one of the biggest policy problems facing policymakers today: internal armed conflicts have a nasty habit of repeating themselves and we don't really know why. Using a mix of quantitative analysis and numerous case studies, Charles Call carefully reveals the importance of political inclusion in preventing repeat violence, and in the process offers important and timely policy prescriptions. This will be required reading for anyone struggling to prevent and put an end to cycles of seemingly endless war."—Barbara Walter, professor, Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies, University of California, San Diego

"This important new book offers fresh insights into the failure of peace agreements that will be of great interest to scholars and policymakers alike."—Chandra Sriram, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

"Countries that fall into civil war are likely to see future violence. Charles Call’s impressive book—rich with theoretical insight and rife with empirical evidence—offers new evidence into precisely why that’s the case. This carefully researched, accessibly written, and engagingly argued book underscores the essential ingredients of inclusivity and legitimacy; its findings and recommendations should be essential reading for students, scholars, and practitioners alike."—Timothy D. Sisk, University of Denver

"Thoughtful and thorough, Why Peace Fails combines the systematic reasoning of a social scientist with the contextualized insight of a practitioner. Charles Call has drawn on his experience in both arenas and produced a study of what makes for success and failure in peace operations. It is well worth the closest attention of both scholars and policymakers."—Michael W. Doyle, Columbia University

"Charles Call has written the next important statement on why some states that come out of a civil war trend toward peace while others return to violence. Bringing to bear a deep knowledge of existing theories of the causes of and solutions to civil wars and a rich understanding of a wide range of cases, Call makes a compelling case that political exclusion is an important but overlooked reason for cycles of violence. This is the sort of book that should be read and discussed by both scholars and practitioners."—Michael N. Barnett, University Professor of International Relations and Political Science, The George Washington University


Supplemental Materials


2012 Typographic Cover Award, Large Nonprofit Publishers Category of the Washington Publishers Book Design and Effectiveness Awards, Second Place

About the Author

Charles T. Call is an assistant professor in the School of International Studies at American University. He was previously a senior fellow at the US Institute of Peace and is the editor of Building States to Build Peace and Constructing Security and Justice after War. He has conducted research in Afghanistan, West Africa, Bosnia, Kosovo, Haiti, Colombia, Chechnya, and Central America.

328 pp., 6 x 9
12 tables
Apr 2012

328 pp., 6 x 9
12 tables
ISBN: 978-1-58901-894-5
Apr 2012

328 pp.
12 tables
ISBN: 978-1-58901-895-2
Apr 2012

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