The end of the Cold War has brought with it an increased attention to managing internal conflicts. The UN alone has seen a multifold increase in the number of peacekeeping operations, while various other national and multinational efforts have become more frequent. Many questions remain about the effectiveness of efforts to manage or ameliorate the consequences of internal conflicts. With few exceptions most studies have focused on the role of diplomatic efforts to resolve internal disputes. It is only recently that scholarship has begun to focus on the role of outside military and/or economic interventions. Presumably when outside parties intervene in an internal conflict at the core of their motivation is some form of conflict management. Interveners may prefer their ally to prevail, but one would think that prevailing at an acceptable cost and in a reasonable time frame would be critical to an effective outcome. In effect, outside interventions into internal conflicts can be thought of as attempts to shorten the duration of the conflict.
In this paper we will elaborate more fully on the role of third parties in the length of time civil conflicts can be expected to last by reporting on the results of recent research that examines the effectiveness of third party interventions. We follow this by making suggestions for further research and future policy. Very briefly, we will conclude that unilateral interventions tend to lengthen the expected life of a conflict, that interventions supporting one side are associated with shorter conflicts relative to neutral interventions, but that in general most interventions appear to be incapable of reducing the expected length of a conflict.
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