From Armed Conflict to War: Ethnic Mobilization and Conflict Intensification

This article presents a new line of inquiry into ethnicity and armed conflict, asking the question: are conflicts in which rebels mobilize along ethnic lines more likely to see intensified violence than nonethnically mobilized conflicts? The article argues that the ascriptive nature of ethnicity eases the identification of potential rebels and facilitates a rebel group’s growth, leading to an increased risk for war. This proposition is empirically tested using a Cox model on all intrastate armed conflicts 1946–2004; the results show that ethnically mobilized armed conflicts have a 92 percent higher risk for intensification to war. In extending the analysis, the study finds that the vast majority of conflicts intensified in the first year, but for every year a low-scale conflict remained active thereafter, the risk of intensification increased, peaking around year 12.