Peer-Reviewed Articles

Koren, Ore, and Anoop Sarbahi. Forthcoming. “State Capacity, Insurgency and Civil War: A Disaggregated Analysis.” International Studies Quarterly.

Country-level indicators such as gross domestic product, bureaucratic quality, and military spending are frequently used to approximate state capacity. These factors capture the aggregate level of state capacity, but do not adequately approximate the actual distribution of capacity within states. Intra-state variations in state capacity are critical to understanding the relationship between state capacity and civil war. We offer nighttime light emissions as a measure of state capacity to differentiate its impact on civil war onset within the country from its effect at the country level. We articulate pathways linking the distribution of nighttime light with the expansion of state capacity, and validate our indicator against other measures at different levels of disaggregation across multiple contexts. Contrary to conventional wisdom, we find that civil wars are more likely to erupt where the state exercises more control. We advance three mechanisms accounting for this counterintuitive finding: rebel gravitation, elite fragmentation, and expansion reaction. In the first scenario, state presence attracts insurgent activities. In the second, insurgents emerge as a result of the fragmentation of political elites. In the third, anti-state groups react violently to the state penetrating into a given territory. Finally, we validate these mechanisms using evidence from sub-Saharan Africa.

Koren, Ore, and Benjamin E. Bagozzi. 2017. “Living Off The Land: The Connection between Cropland, Food Security, and Violence against Civilians.” Journal of Peace Research 54(3): 351-364.

Food security has attracted widespread attention in recent years. Yet, despite preliminary evidence connecting food insecurity to political violence, we lack a systematic understanding of the relationship(s) between local food resources and violence against civilians. This study develops a food-security based theory to explain the significant variation that we observe in violence against civilians across both time and subnational geographic space. We argue that combatants, be they government or rebel actors, often must turn to local agricultural resources for sustenance. During times of relative peace, armed actors and civilians have long time horizons, and the prospects of repeated interactions thereby promote a strategy of co-optation to obtain food resources. However, the existence of immediate conflict in a region leads armed actors to discount the benefits of future interactions in favor of obtaining food immediately, using violence if necessary. In estimating a series of statistical models on a sample of all African countries (1997-2009), we find robust support for our expectations: cropland increases the frequency of violence against civilians during periods of conflict, but has an added pacifying effect during times of peace.

Bagozzi, Benjamin E., Ore Koren, and Bumba Mukherjee. 2017. “Droughts, Land Appropriation, and Rebel Violence in The Developing World.” Journal of Politics 79(3): 1057-1072.

Scholars note that rebel atrocities against civilians often arise within rural areas in the de- veloping world. This characterization is not far-fetched, and recent data show that rebel atrocities do predominately occur within rural agricultural regions. Yet, the frequency of such incidents also varies substantially across different agricultural regions and years. What accounts for this observed variation in rebel-perpetrated atrocities against civilians within agricultural areas in developing countries? We develop a formal model to address this question, which contends that severe droughts can decrease food availability, prompting civilians to allocate food for immediate consumption and become increasingly willing to defend their diminishing supplies against rebels. This leads rebels to preempt the civilians’ defensive efforts by committing atrocities, which forcibly separate civilians from their lands and food stockpiles. In empirically testing this hypothesis at the sub-national level across the developing world, we find robust support for our game-theoretic model’s predictions.

Koren, Ore, and Benjamin E. Bagozzi. 2016. “From Global to Local, Food Insecurity is Associated with Contemporary Armed Conflict.” Food Security 8(5): 999-1010.

Food security has attracted widespread attention in recent years. Yet, scientists and practitioners have predominately understood food security in terms of dietary energy availability and nutrient deficiencies, rather than in terms of food security’s consequential implications for social and po- litical violence. The present study offers the first global evaluation of the effects of food insecurity on local conflict dynamics. An economic approach is adopted to empirically evaluate the degree to which food insecurity concerns produce an independent effect on armed conflict using comprehensive geographic data. Specifically, two agricultural output measures – a geographic area’s extent of cropland and a given agricultural location’s amount of cropland per capita – are used to respectively measure the access to and availability of (i.e., the demand and supply of) food in a given region. Findings show that food insecurity measures are robustly associated with the occurrence of contemporary armed conflict.

Koren, Ore. 2015. “Means to an end: Pro-government militias as a predictive indicator of strategic mass killing.” Conflict Management and Peace Science. DOI: 10.1177/0738894215600385.

Forecasting models of state-led mass killing are limited in their use of structural indicators, despite a large body of research that emphasizes the importance of agency and security repertoires in conditioning political violence. I seek to overcome these limitations by developing a theoretical and statistical framework that highlights the advantages of using pro-government militias (PGMs) as a predictive indicator in forecasting models of state-led mass killing. I argue that PGMs can lower the potential costs associated with mass killing for a regime faced with an internal threat, and might hence ‘‘tip the balance’’ in its favor. In estimating a series of statistical models and their receiver–operator characteristic curves to evaluate this hypothesis globally for the years 1981–2007, focusing on 270 internal threat episodes, I find robust support for my expectations: including PGM indicators in state-led mass killing models significantly improves their predictive strength. Moreover, these results hold even when coefficient estimates produced by in-sample data are used to predict state-led mass killing in cross-validation and out-of-sample data for the years 2008–2013. This study hence provides an introductory demonstration of the potential advantages of including security repertoires, in addition to structural factors, in forecasting models.

Koren, Ore. 2014. “Military structure, civil disobedience, and military violence.” Terrorism & Political Violence 26(4): 688-712.

In this article, I argue that factors inherent to the structure of a military organization and their relationship with the political leadership play a role in the organization’s ten- dency to perpetrate violence against civilians during civil disobedience campaigns. To examine this hypothesis, I conducted a three-phased statistical analysis on a database containing 97 campaigns that took place between 1972 and 2012. In the first phase, I examined the relationship between military centric factors and violent crackdowns. In the second phase, I examined the relationship between military centric factors and mass killing. In the third stage, I examined the relationship between two specific types of discrimination in the military and mass killing. I found strong evidence supporting the hypothesis mentioned above. High-risk militaries that served a militarized regime, contained loosely regulated or indoctrinated paramilitaries, and discriminated against the protesting group, were much more likely to perpetrate violence against civilians during civil disobedience campaigns than low-risk militaries. The conclusions of this study suggest that further examination of the military’s role in perpetrating violence against civilians during protests and conflict may provide some novel findings.


Other Publications

Koren, Ore. “How Drought Escalates Rebel Killings of Civilians: Study Pinpoints Link Between Food Shortages and Attacks by Extremists, Insurgents.” United States Institute of Peace Policy Analyses, May 24, 2017.

This analysis evaluates the role of famines in violence against civilians and the additional benefits of increasing local drought resistance.

Koren, Ore, and Benjamin E. Bagozzi. “Food Access and the Logic of Violence During Civil War.” New Security Beat, The Wilson Center, March 15, 2017.

In this post, we explain different reasons as to why food abundance can cause violence during civil war.

Koren, Ore. “Living Off the Land: Food and the Logic of Violence in Civil War.” Political Violence @ A Glance, February 6, 2017.

This post discusses how food security has a moderating effect on violence against civilians during peaceful times, but an intensifying impact when conflict intensifies.

Koren, Ore. “Food scarcity causes conflicts — but so can food abundance. Here’s why.” The Monkey Cage, November 23, 2016.

This op-ed surveys recent studies on the relationship between food security and conflict and explores this emerging research agenda.

Koren, Ore. “Tipping the Balance: The Role of Security Repertoires in Predicting Violence.” Political Violence @ A Glance, September 10, 2015.

This post discusses how taking agency and perpetrator characteristics into account can improve our ability to predict mass killing and other state abuses.

Koren, Ore. “Not (Only) Assad’s Fault: The Military Effect in Syria.” International Affairs Forum, May 14, 2013.

This op-ed argues that the scope of violence against civilians in Syria is not only caused by the decision of President Assad, but also by local officers and troops operating in the field.