From Tension to War: A Fuzzy-Set Analysis on Levels of Civil Conflict in the Middle East and North Africa

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 11:00
Location: Hörsaal 22 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Emre AMASYALI, McGill University, Canada
Mehri GHAZANJANI, McGill University, Canada
In this article, we study the conditions and combinations of factors that lead to different levels of civil conflict in the Middle East and North Africa.  For the most part, previous quantitative studies have focused on the civil war onset. Scholars of conflict have yet to examine the combination of factors that give rise to different levels of conflict. Therefore, the scholarship on civil war lacks empirical justifications for isolating what factors are most prominent for high-intensity conflicts. Given this gap in the literature, this paper seeks to present an approach that can both theoretically and empirically articulate the contours of conflict intensity in a given case or cross-case analysis.  In order to move beyond the current framework of civil war studies, we code levels of violence on a continuum from “low levels of tension” to “civil war”.  We adopt a Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) approach (based on fuzzy set-theoretic relations (fsQCA)), to demonstrate what combinations of causal conditions lead to the different forms of violence on the continuum. We argue that an fsQCA research approach is needed in order to advance the scholarship of conflict on both theoretical and empirical grounds, and in order to identify the combination of conditions that define different levels of conflict. The study uses 47 cases of intra-state conflict in the Middle East and North Africa from 1946 to 2013 and tests the interaction between the following five causal conditions: 1) state capacity 2) dissident groups’ access to political power, 3) the size of military, 4) foreign intervention and 5) threats to the status or identity of groups. We argue that the causal combination of increased military size, multiple forms of foreign intervention and severe threats to group identity is the most consistent in explaining conflict escalation in the Middle East and North Africa.