Abstract

We study a symmetric information bargaining model of civil war where a third (foreign) party can affect the probabilities of winning the conflict and the size of the post conflict spoils. We show that the possible alliance with a third party makes peaceful agreements difficult to reach and might lead to new commitment problems that trigger war. Also, we argue that the foreign party is likely t oinduce persistent informational asymmetries which might explain long lasting civil wars. We explore both political and economic incentives for a third party to intervene. The explicit consideration of political incentives leads to two predictions that allow for identifying the influence of foreign intervention on civil war incidence. Both predictions are confirmed for the case of the U.S. as a potential intervening nation: (i) civil wars around the world are more likely under Republican governments and (ii) the probability of civil wars decreases with U.S. presidential approval rates.