What determines the success of efforts to stop a civil war? We have some answers in a fascinating 2001 Stanford-led study of every civil war in the past 20 years.^^

Among the key findings: it’s crucial to have the very strong presence of an interested regional, international, or super power willing to commit lots of money, time, and boots on the ground to stop the violence.

Also, demobilization and decommissioning are the most important tasks; the bigger the police force, the smaller the incidence of violence after they arrive.

In the best case, occupation takes at least seven years before real stability is likely.

That suggests that a country’s success ending a war inside another country depends on its willingness and ability to commit a lot for a long time.

The study, “Implementing Peace Agreements in Civil Wars: Lessons and Recommendations,” also found that a low-grade civil war may be the best of a bad set of choices; that an effort to press for a comprehensive peace (as in Rwanda) can break down and give rise to a terrible war.

That’s a humbling insight for those of us, like me, who dream of entering a dispute and brokering a lasting peace. “First do no harm” seems to be a key implication.

You can read the article at this URL: