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    Stephen Gent, Associate Professor, and UNC PhDs Inform Debate over Intervention in Syria

    Syria_Gent.jpgResearch on military intervention and civilian victimization conducted by Stephen Gent, associate professor of political science, Reed Wood (UNC PhD, 2010), and Jacob Kathman (UNC PhD, 2007) has helped to inform the national policy debate surrounding the ongoing crisis in Syria.  In a recent study publishedinthe Journal of Peace Research, the authors found that military intervention in support of rebel groups in civil wars tends to increase the level of violence against civilians perpetrated by governments.  National media outlets, including the Washington Post, Slate, and the Atlantic, have cited their research in discussions of the potential unintended consequences of a military intervention in Syria.

    According to Professors Wood, Kathman, and Gent, when an outside military intervenes on behalf of a rebel group in a civil war, it weakens the capability of the government relative to the rebels.  In response to this increased threat, the government’s incentive to use violence against its population increases.  In an analysis of civil wars from 1989 to 2005, the authors found that when outside governments intervene on behalf of rebel forces, the government’s killing of civilians typically increased by 40 percent.  When asked to relate the research to the current crisis in Syria, Professor Gent noted, “While our study does not specifically examine Syria, it does raise the possibility that a military intervention on behalf of the Syrian rebels would likely provoke the Assad government to increase its targeting of its own civilians, at least in the short term.  This is something that policy makers should take into account when considering whether to actively intervene into the conflict.”

    Wood, Reed M., Jacob D. Kathman, and Stephen E. Gent. 2012. “Armed intervention and civilian victimization in intrastate conflicts.” Journal of Peace Research 49(5): 647-660.  Reed Wood is an assistant professor of politics and global studies at Arizona State University, and Jacob Kathman is an assistant professor of political science at the University at Buffalo, SUNY.

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    News ItemSyria: The Wider Implications, Topic of Panel on October 1, 7:30pm

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