Hysteresis of targeting civilians in armed conflicts
This article explores warring groups’ intentional targeting behavior against civilians, a strictly prohibited war strategy by international norms. Using dynamic panel regressions run on a comprehensive dataset of contemporary warfare, which covers 22 years (1989-2010), I find that warring actors involved in prolonged armed (15-22 years) conflict target civilians more often than those involved in shorter-duration warfare. Also, for warring groups engaged in prolonged armed conflict, lethal behavior against civilians tends to be intensified if targeting is repeated over time, although this hysteresis effect appears to persist only for one year. It is hypothesized that the mounting war cost of prolonged conflict inclines warring groups toward the presumably cheaper targeting of noncombatant civilians rather than battling combatant military or other armed personnel. [JEL code: F51]
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