Location, location, location…

If you thought the only neighborhood that matters is the one you live in, you’re mistaken. You see, neighborhoods make a drastic impact politically, too.

Let’s take a closer look at the situation. Take, for example, two people who are good friends. Both are married. When one’s marriage starts to fall apart, the other person may begin to identify. To take on the problems themselves, and project them onto their own relationship.

This happens. So often, in fact, that the recent divorce of a close friend or loved one is one of the key predictors that a couple will divorce.

In international politics, we can conceptualize divorce as occuring between opposing sides within a country during civil war or political unrest. Only, in this case, often times the “problems” that are taken on are actually people – refugees seeking shelter, and rebels seeking a secure base outside of their government’s grasp.

The result is, much as you might expect, messy. Refugee camps are dangerous, often hot beds for crime and recruitment into extremist politcal movements. Violence begets violence.

Spill-over conflicts are statistically verifiable. The level and likelihood of these conflicts varies based on the social and political embeddedness of insurgent groups, which Sarbahi suggests influence the trajectory of peripheral civil wars. The presence of political neighbors in conflict often leads to political conflict. That’s known.

It’s also often forgotten. When we look at the situation in Syria, let’s not forget that the Middle East at present looks like  a game of “Lights Out”.  The conflict isn’t without domestic AND international provocation, however. Which begs another question. When we study civil wars, do we draw the line on national borders, or are the wars in neighboring states that originate from the same causes actually part of the same war?

For convenience, we often use political borders. But does that shrink our understanding of the entire problem of insurgency? Are we cutting off our theoretical hand to spite our face?

Maybe not. But it’s still something to keep in mind…

For more on political violence in countries whose neighbors are unstable, see the following:

http://aprendeenlinea.udea.edu.co/revistas/index.php/coyuntura/article/view/18256/15691

http://www.yale.edu/macmillan/ocvprogram/licep/3/sambanis/EthnicWarPaper.pdf

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.17.6639&rep=rep1&type=pdf

http://www.international.ucla.edu/cms/files/gleditsch.0213.pdf

http://www.colorado.edu/geography/class_homepages/geog_2002_s06/laptop_s06/current%20projects/Cox_Low%20Robinson%20Book%20chapter/Cox_Low%20Book%20chapter/distance%20and%20civil%20war%20effects%20on%20economy-sandler.pdf

http://www.saramitchell.org/salehyangleditsch.pdf

Please share any comments, complaints, suggestions, or questions!

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