NS3235 Civil Wars

Since 1945, civil wars have occurred five times more frequently than interstate wars. These civil conflicts produce major humanitarian crises, give rise to violent extremists, and serve as arenas for Great Power competition. This course explores three phases of civil wars: conflict onsetconflict dynamics, and conflict termination. This exploration will involve reading the scholarly literature on civil wars and simulating key dynamics to truly understand the complexities of civil conflicts across multiple regions of the world.     



Lecture Hours


Lab Hours


Quarter Offered

  • As Required


  1. Describe and critically assess theoretical approaches to civil wars, including ones that emphasize strategic rationality, ethno-religious identities, and political institutions and processes.
  2. Explain common mechanisms for civil war onset and draw lessons for how to predict societies at risk of falling into civil wars.
  3. Tackle common puzzles in the study of civil wars, such as why do rebels kill civilians, how do external states shape civil war outcomes, and why do rebels often kill each other when fighting their governments.
  4. Explain the common obstacles to terminating civil wars, especially the problem of spoilers and conflict traps, and what can be done to forge lasting peace.
  5. Derive lessons from past civil wars and discuss how they might inform U.S. strategy in addressing ongoing civil wars in the context of Great Power competition.
  6. Conduct independent research on a subject relevant to civil wars.