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Study of Internal Conflict – SOIC Conflict Studies

This page captures research and analysis by SSI professors, USAWC faculty and students, and research assistants into the causes and outcomes of internal conflicts since 1945 as part of the ongoing Study of Internal Conflict (SOIC). Research and analysis will also include topics in Unconventional and Irregular Warfare.

SOIC Conflict Studies

The Study of Internal Conflict (SOIC) began in 2014 as a research project at the Strategic Studies Institute to determine the actual causes of government failure in internal conflict. The study has analyzed more than 40 military, political, economic and geographical factors in 53 wars since 1945 to determine which conflict parameters correlate with government failure in at least 90 percent of all insurgencies and civil wars.  Five factors have been identified which are present in virtually every government defeat: (1) Less than 85 percent of the total population expressing a national identity, (2) Less than 85 percent government legitimacy, (3) less than 85 percent of population being fully isolated from contact with the rebel group, (4) the existence of persistent external sanctuary for the rebel group, and (5) the lack of sustainable, pre-existing security forces under the control of the government at the outset of the conflict. Furthermore, it was found that in no case since 1945 have counterinsurgency methods such as “reconstruction,” “pacification” and “clear, hold and build” ever increased popular support for the government or increased legitimacy in any quantifiable degree anywhere in the world.  The first four case studies are presented here. Additional case studies will be posted each month.  The article “COIN Doctrine is Wrong” in the summer 2021 issue of Parameters describes the research study, the definitions, the conflicts, the factors and the analytical methodology in more detail.

  •  Conflict Study: 1996-2003 Congo

    Conflict Study: 1996-2003 Congo

    Study of Internal Conflict – SOIC Conflict Studies Congo 1996-2003 Researcher: COL John Crisafulli This conflict may be viewed as either an international conflict or as a hybrid conflict in contrast to a purely civil war or insurgency. It is sometimes referred to as the “First African World War,” and conflict took place between the military forces of several countries, and fighting took place in Congo (initially Zaire), Rwanda and Uganda. It could alternatively be viewed as a civil war with extensive military engagement of neighboring countries. The origin of the conflict was the ethnic slaughter within Rwanda between the Hutu majority government and the Tutsi tribes. A genocidal slaughter of the Tutsi’s in 1994 resulted in close to a million killed. ...
  •  Conflict Study: 1994 Rwanda

    Conflict Study: 1994 Rwanda

    Study of Internal Conflict – SOIC Conflict Studies Rwanda 1994 Researcher: Skyler Wilkey The Rwandan Genocide was one of the most horrific atrocities in modern history. The conflict was primarily between the two main ethnic groups in Rwanda, the Hutu and the Tutsi. These two ethnic groups have had a tumultuous history, the modern chapter of which was opened by the colonization of Rwanda by Belgium after World War 1. ...
  •  Conflict Study: 1992–1997 Tajikistan

    Conflict Study: 1992–1997 Tajikistan

    Tajikistan, a former Soviet republic, gained independence in 1991. The ensuing political struggle for power escalated into a civil war following the first elections to form a government. The Tajik Communist Party (CPT) won the presidential election, prompting opposition parties to denounce the elections as illegitimate. The two largest opposition parties, the Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP) and the nationalist Democratic Party of Tajikistan (DPT) united with other opposition factions to form the United Tajik Opposition (UTO) and engage in armed resistance against the government.
  •  Conflict Study: 1988–1998 Bougainville

    Conflict Study: 1988–1998 Bougainville

    Bougainville is an island province in PNG and the site of one of the world's largest gold and copper mines. From 1988 to 1998, the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) waged a civil war in Papua New Guinea (PNG), resulting in an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 military and civilian deaths. The Bougainville mine, operated by Bougainville Copper Ltd., accounts for around 40 percent of PNG's exports. Papua New Guinea achieved independence in 1975, and though the government has remained democratic, it has been dysfunctional. What little national identity or government legitimacy that existed in PNG in the 1980s was fragile and declining.
  •  Conflict Study: 1980-2003 Peru

    Conflict Study: 1980-2003 Peru

    Study of Internal Conflict – SOIC Conflict Studies Peru 1980-2003 Researcher: Ali Sina Sharifi Peru experienced an internal conflict between the government and the Communist Party Sendero Luminoso, or Shining Path, which was established by Abimael Guzman in Ayacucho, in the wake of democratization after more than a decade of military government. Peru’s economic struggles at the time provoked rural and peasant groups to rebel against the government. The key figure in this conflict was Abimael Guzman, a former university professor, who concentrated on spreading a doctrine based on the teachings of Marx, Lenin, and Mao in the 1960s and later attempting to overthrow the government in the 1980s and 1990s.
  •  Conflict Study: 1980–1986 Uganda

    Conflict Study: 1980–1986 Uganda

    In 1979 former Ugandan President Idi Amin was ousted from power in a coup lead by the Tanzania People‟s Defense Forces. Following this coup, the Ugandan government was comprised of multiple political groups, eventually leading to a military commission which was then put in charge of the 1980 elections. Four parties ran for election; the Ugandan People‟s Congress (UPC), the Democratic Party, the Uganda Patriotic Movement, and the Conservative Party. The UPC‟s candidate was Dr. Milton Obote who had lead Uganda prior to President Idi Amin‟s reign. Before the elections took place, the UPM, lead by Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, said it would challenge the elections in any and all ways if they were not free and fair. Dr. Obote was elected with 40% of the vote.
  •  Conflict Study: 1979–1992 Mozambique

    Conflict Study: 1979–1992 Mozambique

    The Mozambican Civil War began in 1979 and lasted until a negotiated settlement was signed by both parties in 1992. The conflict was fought in the Republic of Mozambique between the Frelimo government and Renamo insurgents. The governing party at the start of the civil war was the Frente de Libertacao de Mozambique (Frelimo). The national government consistently had approximately 30,000 soldiers throughout the conflict. Frelimo was Marxist in orientation and aligned its foreign policy with the USSR and Cuba. While in power prior to 1992, Frelimo nationalized industry, outlawed private property, and created state-run collective farms and communal villages. This party was initially created in 1962 by exiled Mozambicans who wanted to overthrow Portuguese colonial rule, and became the ruling party of Mozambique in 1975.
  •  Conflict Study: 1965-1980 Rhodesian Bush War

    Conflict Study: 1965-1980 Rhodesian Bush War

    Study of Internal Conflict – SOIC Conflict Studies Rhodesian Bush War 1965-1980 Researcher: Lauren Kiesel The Rwandan Genocide was one of the most horrific atrocities in modern history. The conflict was primarily between the two main ethnic groups in Rwanda, the Hutu and the Tutsi. These two ethnic groups have had a tumultuous history, the modern chapter of which was opened by the colonization of Rwanda by Belgium after World War 1. ...
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Glossary of Terms and Study Definitions

External Sanctuary.  “External sanctuary” is defined as a land border with a neighboring country that the rebel combatants could and did cross in militarily significant numbers without excessive difficulty or danger. Militarily significant numbers are considered to be platoon-size elements crossing with their weapons and equipment, rather than individuals exfiltrating and infiltrating across a guarded border. Once across the border, for the destination to be considered “sanctuary,” the rebels must be reasonably certain of safety from detention, repatriation, or pursuit. Certainty of external support in the form of funding, new equipment, training, or new recruits is not required for the cross-border area to be considered “sanctuary,” but it must be across an international border. Determining whether external sanctuary existed in a given case was relatively easy in actual practice, as during the course of the study, there have been no cases in which adjudication was required whether the criteria were met. In other words, all cases have been clear-cut. If sanctuary was available at the start of the conflict, but the government succeeded in sealing off its borders to eliminate the sanctuary during the conflict, the study defines this as a “negative” finding for external sanctuary despite its earlier existence, and it appears as “Yes → No” in the data matrix.

Government Victory.  “Government victory” is defined as the government which was in power at the start of the conflict or its natural successors (i.e., not a change of government) remained in power eighteen months after the end of hostilities, and the territory of the country remained unchanged from the start of the conflict. If the rebels succeeded in bringing down the government or in achieving their goal of either establishing an independent breakaway country, even if the government remained in power, the government cannot be said to have won the conflict.

Legitimacy of Government.  The study uses established political science principles in defining legitimacy of government. Princeton University Encyclopedia for example defines it as: “The belief that a rule, institution, or leader has the right to govern. It is a judgment by an individual about the rightfulness of a hierarchy between rule or ruler and its subject and about the subordinate’s obligations toward the rule or ruler.” The level established by the study for analysis is 85 percent of the population holding such a belief.

National Identity.  The study uses established political science principles in defining “national identity” as citizens locating their personal identities at the level of the state and not at a sub-state stratum such as their tribe, clan, ethnicity, linguistic or religious group. The level established by the study for analysis is 85 percent of the population holding such a state or nation-level identity.

Population Protection.  Although population protection is a bedrock principle of counterinsurgency doctrine, it was necessary to define what the SOIC means by the term in order for researchers to assess whether or not a population was in fact being protected. The definition the study uses states that a population is protected if “85 percent or more of the civilian population is effectively sealed off from meaningful contact with the rebel group.” Examples of meaningful contact would be the printing and distribution of leaflets, pamphlets or other propaganda material in any significant degree, the persistent ability of a rebel group to make radio broadcasts which reached any significant number of listeners, the ability of rebels to give speeches in public or address groups of more than a few individuals in private, the ability of rebels to credibly threaten, intimidate or bribe government officials, or to assassinate government workers or leaders. This definition acknowledges that it is not possible to create a completely airtight firewall between civilians and rebels that will prevent 100 percent of rebel propagandists or terrorists from slipping past government security cordons 100 percent of the time. Thus “Population Protection” is defined as the reliable, continuous maintenance a high level of public security which prevents all but rare interaction between the civilian population and rebel elements.

Sustainable, pre-existing security forces.  This term is defined for the study as an existing security force at the outset of the conflict which was funded by the government, wore some sort of uniform, observed some sort of hierarchical rank structure in which the soldiers largely obeyed the orders of their superiors, was capable of transporting itself and sustaining itself in the field, and which generally carried out the orders of the Head of State or the appointed government official responsible for security. In the case of military rule, the standing security force had to be subordinate to the military element holding state power.

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