Head for the Hills? Geography, State Capacity, and Civil War
Posted: 12 Apr 2010
Date Written: April 12, 2010
This article expands on the conventional discourse relating geographic factors – mountainous terrain and noncontiguous territory – to civil war onset. In addition to their direct effects on the strategic and tactical logic of insurgency, I argue these factors affect state capacity, as measured by tax capacity, and exert an indirect effect through this channel. Because tax capacity proxies bureaucratic and administrative capacity as well as material resources, it conditions the decision to rebel more than military capacity per se. Using fixed effect vector decomposition models, I find a negative relationship between both mountainous terrain and noncontiguous territory and state capacity. Subsequently, I find state capacity is strongly and negatively associated with civil war onset, though this relationship appears only with longer than conventional temporal lags. The cumulative (direct indirect effect mediated by state capacity) of geography is anywhere from 22 to 59 percent larger than its direct effect.
Keywords: civil conflict, geography, state capacity, tax ratio, mountainous terrain
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation