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Mehrl, Marius; Thurner, Paul W. (2020): Military Technology and Human Loss in Intrastate Conflict: The Conditional Impact of Arms Imports. In: Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 64, No. 6: pp. 1172-1196
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Abstract

Although often conjectured, there is a lack of empirical evidence whether international inflows of military technology render intrastate conflicts more violent. We address this question and argue that expansions in governments’ ability to fight aggravate the lethality of intrastate war. However, we expect this effect to be conditioned by rebels’ military endowments and their choice of tactics. Where rebels are weak, they avoid open combat, and additional governmental arms imports have no effect on the number of casualties. In contrast, governmental arms imports cause human losses to multiply when rebels have achieved military parity or superiority and, as a consequence, use conventional combat tactics. This hypothesis is tested on the number of battle-related deaths in intrastate conflict, 1989 to 2011, using, for the first time, data on governmental imports of both major conventional weapons and small arms. Results support our propositions and are robust to instrumenting for imports of both types of weapons.