Civil war participants, scholars, transnational civil society, and international governmental organizations believe that military integration significantly reduces the risk of a society’s relapse into civil war. However, other than a few scattered case studies and some contradictory aggregate data analyses, there has been little theoretical or empirical investigation about what constitutes ‘good’ military integration and how and under what conditions integration yields beneficial consequences for postwar peace and stability. This article argues that both the theoretical logics and the empirical record identifying military integration as a significant independent source of post–civil war peace are weak.
The authors contend that local actors’ embrace of deep military integration is a reflection of propitious underlying political conditions, while the failure of military integration is more an indicator of underlying distrust or incompatible win-sets than it is a fundamental cause of peace’s breakdown. The same interests, institutions, ideas, and deep historical structures that drive a given peace settlement, warts and all, also shape the corresponding military integration. It is these forces, more than the particulars of integration, that affect the duration of the peace.
The article explores the experiences of eleven states that suffered civil war and either included military integration provisions in the negotiated settlement or pursued some form of integration after the war’s termination. The authors see little evidence in these cases that military integration played a substantial causal role in nurturing peace and in preventing the return to civil war, as well as little support for the likely causal mechanisms. Process-tracing evidence from these cases is more consistent with this skeptical account.
The article begins by reviewing the sparse literature on military integration. Second, it conceptually unpacks military integration into its component dimensions. Third, the article lays out four possible causal pathways between military integration and civil war recidivism and evaluates the coherence of their theoretical logic. The fourth section, which makes up the bulk of the article, discusses in detail eleven cases stretching over three continents and four decades: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Burundi, Congo, Lebanon, Mozambique, Philippines, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, and Zimbabwe. The authors attempt to discover from these cases whether military integration has a substantial, systematic independent causal effect on the durability of peace after civil war. The article closes with a skeptical reconsideration of military integration as a focus of international peacebuilding efforts.