Bullets and Bargaining: Rationalist decision-making in Sierra Leone and Slovenia

de Bruijne, K. L., 2016, (Unpublished) [Groningen]: University of Groningen. 448 p.

Research output: ThesisThesis fully internal (DIV)Academic

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  • Complete thesis

    Final publisher's version, 11 MB, PDF document

    Embargo ends: 01/01/9998

  • Propositions

    Final publisher's version, 78 KB, PDF document

Why do potential belligerents use violence in a civil conflict? Generally, academics point to motivations: violence may stem from years of neglect, ideological commitments or predatory motives. Motivations however, fail to address a very simple question: why not use the bargaining table to satisfy these motivations? Why fight? This thesis takes up this very practical question and finds that belligerents use violence as long as they are optimistic and believe that their respective goals – whatever these are – can be satisfied on the battlefield.

Multiple conversations with rebel leaders, commanders and politicians in Sierra Leone and Slovenia show that optimism is an untiring motive in decision-making prior to and during violent conflict and is a strong trigger for the (continued) usage of violence. Hence, we should also conceive the activity of war differently; civil conflict is a violent bargaining process in which the belligerents try to change the optimism of the opponent. This book provides ample evidence finds that the most important pathways are through direct interpretation of battlefield information and (private) signals of befriended third parties. A final contribution of this book is exploring the extent to which optimism should be viewed as a consequence of misperceptions or rather a consequence of rationalist decision-making. Based on five tests this book finds a surprising amount of support for a rationalist interpretation of optimism. Perhaps the most important implication of this last finding is that international involvement may do more harm than good: it may generate uncertainty, increase optimism and prolong violence.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wilde, de, Jaap, Supervisor
  • Assem, van den, Arjan, Co-supervisor
  • Dorussen, H., Assessment committee, External person
  • Fearon, J. D., Assessment committee, External person
  • Hoen, Herman, Assessment committee
  • Peters, K., Assessment committee, External person
Award date15-Sep-2016
Place of Publication[Groningen]
Publication statusUnpublished - 2016

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