The Logic of Child Soldiering and Coercion

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Authors Bernd Beber, Christopher Blattman
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Paper Abstract Why do armed groups recruit large numbers of children as fighters, often coercively? The international community has tried to curb these crimes by sham- ing and punishing leaders who commit them—in short, making the crimes costlier+ Are these policies effective and sufficient? The answer lies in more attention to the strategic interaction between rebel leaders and recruits+ We adapt theories of indus- trial organization to rebellious groups and show how, being less able fighters, chil- dren are attractive recruits if and only if they are easier to intimidate, indoctrinate, and misinform than adults+ This ease of manipulation interacts with the costliness of war crimes to influence rebel leaders' incentives to coerce children into war+ We use a case study and a novel survey of former child recruits in Uganda to illustrate this argument and provide hard evidence not only that children are more easily manipu- lated in war, but also how—something often asserted but never demonstrated+ Our theory, as well as a new "cross-rebel" data set, also support the idea that costliness matters: foreign governments, international organizations, diasporas, and local pop- ulations can discourage child recruitment by withholding resources or punishing offenders ~or, conversely, encourage these crimes by failing to act!+ But punishing war crimes has limitations, and can only take us so far+ Children's reintegration oppor- tunities must be at least as great as adults' ~something that demobilization programs sometimes fail to do!+ Also, indoctrination and misinformation can be directly influ- enced+ We observe grassroots innovations in Uganda that could be models for the prevention and curbing of child soldiering and counterinsurgency generally+
Date of publication 2013
Code Programming Language R
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