Bonn: German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE)
One strand of current conflict research claims that military victories are beneficial for peace. It is argued that these outcomes produce more unified post-conflict societies, thereby facilitating reconstruction and economic development. The implication of this view is that, instead of encouraging negotiated settlements, international actors should either support one side to victory or allow a conflict to run its course. This briefing paper argues that the case for “peace by victory” is weaker than supporters claim. The most successful conflict resolutions address their root causes and involve a broad range of stakeholders.
A quick glance at all civil war terminations since 1946 seems to suggest that military victories are slightly more stabilizing than other outcomes. Rough comparisons, however, are insufficient for drawing conclusions or offering policy advice. A full review of the context and content of peacebuilding reveals a very different picture.
Focusing only on military victories and peace agreements ignores the most common outcome of civil strife: an ongoing contest between belligerents, albeit with a limited use of force.
Long-term success in conflict management calls for dismantling troop mobilization structures as well as those used for repression. This includes ensuring that both the army and militias return to the barracks and come under official civilian control. External actors can best contribute by helping to create outlets where grievances can be aired and addressed peaceably. Although it is very important to reduce violence quickly, armed belligerents must not be seen as the sole representatives of conflicting views.
The following recommendations can be drawn from this paper:
– Talks about the issues are the only realistic outcome of a protracted conflict.
– Conflict negotiations should not only involve the violent parties but also other non-violent, legitimate stakeholders.
– While peace negotiations must be held in a central location, local efforts to promote intra-societal trust also need to be initiated and supported. Many potential peace-process spoilers are less concerned with the terms of a national agreement than with their immediate local security.