“How Do Natural Resources Influence Civil War? Evidence from Thirteen Cases”


The following paper is devoted to the overview and the consistent critique of the article “How Do Natural Resources Influence Civil War? Evidence from Thirteen Cases” by Michael L. Ross.

The indicated work discusses the problem of resource allocation during the civil wars. In fact, the author analyses the impact of the war duration on the wealth in the countries, trying to find the mechanisms behind the resource-conflict correlation on the basis of the 13 Civil wars in Afghanistan, Angola, Burma, Cambodia, Colombia, the Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo 1, the Democratic Republic of Congo 2, Indonesia (Aceh), Liberia, Peru, Sierra Leone and Sudan (Ross, 2004).


The paper details several hypotheses about the resource influence on the war conflicts, specifying the observable implications and reporting which of these can be observed in the “most likely” sample of 13 cases.

The author uses three types of analysis. If the hypothesized causal mechanisms can be observed in the thirteen cases, they may be considered plausible. If the pointed mechanisms cannot be observed in the studied cases, the mechanism is unlikely to be valid more generally. Any of the cases may be used in order to develop the new hypotheses.

The above-mentioned three types of analysis have led to the seven findings (Ross, 2004):

  • The natural resources and wealth are usual causes of the civil conflicts. It means that the resources and wealth make conflicts more likely to occur and last longer.
  • The oil, non-fuel minerals and illicit drugs are the main factors that influence conflicts while other types of primary commodities usually seem to be unrelated to the civil wars.
  • The looting and grievance mechanisms do not appear to be valid as the most popular causal mechanisms. However, they can raise the low-level and separatist conflicts.
  • Resources and wealth do not always make existing conflicts worse, i.e. resources sometimes have contradictory and even beneficial effects over the course of a civil war.
  • There is no single, ubiquitous mechanism that causes the conflicts. Each one has the multiple varieties of causal linkages.
  • The resources play different roles in separatist and non-separatist conflicts. Grievances over the resource and wealth distribution usually initiate separatist wars and have no effect on the non-separatist conflicts.
  • The most popular reasons of civil wars are usually connected with unforeseen mechanisms of the political and national descent (Ross, 2004).


The article provides the well-defined and relevant to the discussion content. It is written in the organized way using simple and understandable language. Each paragraph of the article is defined clearly, which makes it easy to read. The references to the tables with the statistical data provide the important information in the convenient manner and stimulate the reader’s critical thinking about the possible reasons of the civil wars.


Since the beginning of existence, mankind has constantly been in a state of war, no matter if the war has been among individual groups or it has been the global conflict. The military conflicts have variety of causing reasons, i.e. the religious aspects, personal insults, cultural reunion etc. However, the most popular reason is usually practical. The desire to provide the access to the essential natural resources pushes states to wage war on the completely spurious grounds. Unfortunately, the common sense and diplomacy not always help to prevent the conflicts. The analyzed data needs the further research. Nevertheless, the article is a good beginning of the researches devoted to the problems of endogeneity and spuriousness of the civil wars.

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