Mukherjee, Bumba and Ore Koren. The Politics of Mass Killing in Autocratic Regimes. Under contract at Palgrave Macmillan.
Why do authoritarian regimes perpetrate mass killing in some times but not others? What explains the variation in mass killing within nondemocratic states? Despite a large and growing literature on violent repression and civilian mobilization in nondemocratic countries, more work is needed in order to understand and carefully explain one of the most basic decisions authoritarian governments make: whether to kill their own subjects, or not. In this book, we show that food crises play an important role in causing popular resentment, and can motivate the civilians to collectively mobilize against the regime. We also show that sustained mobilization against the regime is more likely in developed urban areas, where the civilians can more easily overcome collective action problems.
By showing – using a combination of analyzing high-resolution data and detailed case studies – that highly developed urban areas can generate mass killing perpetrated preemptively as a strategy to credibly deter sustained political mobilization by civilians, our book offers a new explanation to the onset and variation in mass killing within nondemocratic countries. It also explains an important linkage between economic development and mass killing. This has implications for our understanding of not only how economic development can cause mass killing, but also how, by impacting human capital, mass killing can cause long-term negative impact on development.
Koren, Ore. Forthcoming. “Food Abundance and Violent Conflict in Africa.” American Journal of Agricultural Economics.
Scholars debate whether climate change has a consistent effect on the likelihood of armed conflict in Africa. One major pathway by which climatic variability is hypothesized to increase conflict is by decreasing food availability. However, limitations on food access at both the local and national level in many developing African countries force most armed groups and communities to depend on locally produced food. These actors are therefore likely to use violence to establish control over more food resources or be stationed where more food is available, suggesting that food abundance might also be driving conflict. The present study employs novel data on wheat and maize yields in Africa measured at the very local level to empirically evaluate this hypothesis on a highly disaggregated conflict indicator. To account for the endogenous relationship between conflict and food production, average local levels of drought are used as an instrument. The findings show that, contrary to previous expectations, conflict is driven by higher yields, on average, and not by scarcity.
Koren, Ore. 2017. “Why Insurgents Kill Civilians in Capital Cities: A Disaggregated Analysis of Mechanisms and Trends.” Political Geography 61: 237-252.
Research into the causes of violence against civilians has increased significantly in recent years, yet the mechanisms governing spatial patterns of victimization remain poorly under- stood. My investigation explores if and why one specific locality, capital cities, experiences a higher frequency of violence against civilians perpetrated by armed insurgent organizations. I argue that the political value associated with capitals allows these groups to asymmetrically impose higher costs on the regime by targeting civilians in these localities. I lay out and val- idate three specific mechanisms to explain this pattern: elite coercion, popular intimidation, and international persuasion. In the first scenario insurgents aim to influence domestic elites directly. In the second, they aim is to affect domestic civilians’ resolve. In the third, they seek to influence international audiences. Using new geolocated global atrocities data for the years 1996-2009, I evaluate this linkage by employing different methodological approaches and accounting for potential reporting biases. Finally, I show that ethnic and secessionist wars are more likely to experience atrocities in the capital compared with other conflicts. The findings illustrate potential benefits from explaining the temporal and spatial variation in violence by insurgents, with a focus on strategic conditions and power asymmetries.
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 political 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. 2017. “Means to an end: Pro-government militias as a predictive indicator of strategic mass killing.” Conflict Management and Peace Science 34(5): 461-484. (Earlier 2015 online version — 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.