Publications in 2013

Weidmann, Nils B. 2013. "The Higher the Better? The Limits of Analytical Resolution in Conflict Event Datasets."

Cooperation and Conflict 48(4). [Online Access]

The majority of conflict event datasets being created rely on media reports as their sole source of information. Because of the various difficulties associated with media reports, it is useful to compare conflict coding based on them with those obtained from other observers. A paper by O’Loughlin et al. (2010) makes a first attempt to do this by using (i) a media-based event dataset and (ii) military records on Afghanistan. While the authors conclude that the level of agreement between the two datasets is high, my results show that this goes away once we aggregate to finer analytical resolutions, those that are typically used in micro-level conflict analyses. Thus, rather than giving us the ‘all-clear’ for the accuracy and quality of media-based conflict data, my results once again point to the importance of robustness tests in quantitative conflict research, but also to the need to study the discrepancies in different reporting mechanisms as to find out what they can and what they cannot tell us. 

Otto, Sabine. 2013 "Coding One-sided Violence from Media Reports."

Cooperation and Conflict 48(4). [Online Access]

Event datasets on political violence, which are comprised of coded collected news reports, have enjoyed a renaissance within the academic community. The inclusion of civilian fatalities within these datasets is a promising and welcomed advancement regarding the availability of data on one-sided violence. However, these datasets are often criticized due to their heavy reliance on media records, which may be tainted by biases. So far, little attention has been paid to the specific problems that arise in the coding procedure with respect to one-sided violence. This article addresses such difficulties by discussing particular challenges presented by media biases and by providing empirical evidence from coding one-sided violence. Furthermore, solutions and strategies are offered to the issues that could affect the coding process, including increased transparency, definition-adaptation, and the use of appropriate statistical models. 

Weidmann, Nils B. and Idean Salehyan. 2013. “Violence and Ethnic Segregation: A Computational Model Applied to Baghdad.”

International Studies Quarterly 57(1). [Online Access]

The implementation of the US military surge in Iraq coincided with a significant reduction in ethnic violence. Two explanations have been proposed for this result: The first is that the troop surge worked by increasing counterinsurgent capacity, whereas the second argument is that ethnic unmixing and the establishment of relatively homogenous enclaves were responsible for declining violence in Baghdad through reducing contact. We address this question using an agent-based model that is built on GIS-coded data on violence and ethnic composition in Baghdad. While we cannot fully resolve the debate about the effectiveness of the surge, our model shows that patterns of violence and segregation in Baghdad are consistent with a simple mechanism of ethnically motivated attacks and subsequent migration. Our modeling exercise also informs current debates about the effectiveness of counterinsurgency operations. We implement a simple policing mechanism in our model and show that even small levels of policing can dramatically mitigate subsequent levels of violence. However, our results also show that the timing of these efforts is crucial; early responses to ethnic violence are highly effective, but quickly lose impact as their implementation is delayed.

Weidmann, Nils B. and Christoph Zuercher. 2013. “How Wartime Violence Affects Social Cohesion: The Spatial-temporal Gravity Model.”

Civil Wars 15(1). [Online Access]

Local communities such as villages are commonly assumed to be vital partners in counterinsurgency and post-conflict reconstruction. However, the success of all policies based on this assumption depends on the level of social cohesion at the community level: communities with internal cleavages and fissures will be less effective in making external efforts a success. In this paper, we study how exposure to violence during civil war affects the internal cohesion of a community. On the one hand, we could assume that exposure to a common threat strengthens social ties. On the other hand, shifting power structures in conflict regions could introduce new loyalties and cleavages at the village level, thus eroding a community’s social glue. We use data from a survey conducted in Northern Afghanistan, and combine it with data on violent events from military records. Our results provide evidence for the second mechanism: Exposure to violence causes villagers to diverge in their support for conflicting parties. We estimate a spatial-temporal gravity model, where spatially and temporally proximate events have the highest impact on this divergence at the village level. 

Nome, Martin and Nils B. Weidmann. 2013. Diffusion Mechanisms of Armed Civil Conflict: The Case of Social Identities.

In Transnational Dynamics of Civil War, ed. Jeffrey Checkel. Cambridge University Press. [Book website at Cambridge University Press]

Agent-based modeling has much to offer when exploring hard-to-observe phenomena such as the diffusion of armed civil conflicts. We model a process underlying the spread of armed civil conflicts: the diffusion of social identities. We explore two alternative mechanisms of diffusion: social adaptation in a transnational context, and transnational norm entrepreneurship. We simulate diffusion histories under conditions of both high and low social complexity. Our simulations suggest that norm entrepreneurship is the more robust mechanism of diffusion. Whereas both social adaptation and norm entrepreneurship frequently lead to diffusion in transparent social settings, only norm entrepreneurship continues to generate diffusion when social complexity is high.  

Weidmann, Nils B. and Michael Callen. 2013. “Violence and Election Fraud: Evidence from Afghanistan.”

British Journal of Political Science 43(1). [Online Access]

What explains local variation in electoral manipulation in countries with ongoing internal conflict? The theory of election fraud developed in this article relies on the candidates’ loyalty networks as the agents manipulating the electoral process. It predicts (i) that the relationship between violence and fraud follows an inverted U-shape and (ii) that loyalty networks of both incumbent and challenger react differently to the security situation on the ground. Disaggregated violence and election results data from the 2009 Afghanistan presidential election provide empirical results consistent with this theory. Fraud is measured both by a forensic measure, and by using results from a visual inspection of a random sample of the ballot boxes. The results align with the two predicted relationships, and are robust to other violence and fraud measures.