Conflict Persistence and the Role of Third-Party Interventions

This article discusses the contributions and limitations of the contest approach to theoretical conflict research. Specific topics of discussion include the persistence of war and the motivation and effect of third-party intervention in altering the outcome and persistence of conflict. The persistence of intrastate conflict and the political economy of third-party interventions are central issues in international politics. Conflict persists when neither party to the fighting is sufficiently differentiated to “borrow upon” future ruling rents and optimally deter its opponent. Third-party intervention aimed at breaking a persistent conflict should focus upon creating cross-party differences in factors such as the value of political dominance, effectiveness of military arms, and cost of military arming. The article also discusses the effect of outside intervention upon conflict persistence and outcome. Of particular interest is work that not only identifies a peaceful equilibrium but discusses the degree to which a particular peaceful equilibrium is valued. Considering the value of a peaceful equilibrium may be a first step toward understanding the stability of peace.