8/30/17 – Comparative Politics Workshop ft Sally Sharif

Abstract: Can we predict the end of a civil war? The existing theories posit a range of factors that determine civil war duration. If these factors are identified and coded, we can, in theory, predict how long any given civil war would last. However, the ongoing civil war in Syria constitutes a distinct puzzle since its duration has not conformed to the predictions laid out by researchers. Is it the uniqueness of the Syrian conflict that has made it an outlier in the civil war literature or is it that our methods of estimating conflict duration require revision? This paper examines a host of factors determining civil war duration, connecting two disparate sets of literature: one that provides explanatory accounts for the aggregate years a country is involved in a civil conflict and another that investigates the resilience of authoritarian regimes. I focus specifically on the Syrian civil war, exploring whether institutions and political practices employed by the Assad regime explain why the current civil war defies both statistical models and qualitative studies that have predicted its termination.