Unarmed Forces: Civilian Strategy in Violent Conflicts


  • Shane Joshua Barter


What options are available to civilians faced with war? While civilians tend to be portrayed as helpless victims—and sometimes are—we know that they are not inert. Borrowing from Albert Hirschman, I propose that civilians’ strategies can be understood in terms of flight to safer areas, speaking out to or against armed groups, as support for armed groups, and combinations of these three strategies. This study introduces a simple, intuitive schema for understanding civilian strategies and illustrates it with examples drawn from several armed conflicts. The schema demonstrates that not only do civilians make decisions which enable them to survive bloody conflicts, but also that their strategies may influence armed groups and the course of a given war.