Book Talk: “Quagmire in Civil War”

We were pleased to host a book presentation by Dr. Jonas Schulhofer-Wolh who delivered a presentation on his book Quagmire in Civil War (Cambridge University Press, 2020).

Schulhofer-Wohl conceptualizes “quagmire” as a state of conflict in which belligerent parties find themselves unable to disengage from a costly conflict due to the likelihood of incurring additional costs. According to his research, quagmires can occur at the intersection of international actors’ involvement and the choices of local belligerents to pursue high or low-cost military strategies. The book employs a mixed methods design in which the author interviewed local commanders and other actors that took part in the Lebanese Civil War. This is followed up by a regression analysis with relevant variables pertaining to similar conflicts, and its findings are finally weighed against alternative explanations.

Schulhofer-Wohl concludes that avoiding or ending quagmires relies on altering the costs of a conflict such that both foreign and local actors perceive continued hostilities as being more costly than peace. The best way to achieve this may lay with either a decisive external intervention by foreign parties, or non-intervention. Controversially, policies in between –half measures– may militate against peace: moderation can be a policy vice.

The talk was attended by faculty and graduate students from Bilkent University’s IR and Political Science Departments.