Why do civilians suffer most during times of violent conflict? Why are civilian fatalities as much as eight times higher, calculated globally for current conflicts, than military fatalities? In Why They Die , Daniel Rothbart and Karina V. Korostelina address these questions through a systematic study of civilian devastation in violent conflicts. Pushing aside the simplistic definition of war as a guns-and-blood battle between two militant groups, the authors investigate the identity politics underlying conflicts of many types. During a conflict, all those on the opposite side are perceived as the enemy, with little distinction between soldiers and civilians. As a result, random atrocities and systematic violence against civilian populations become acceptable.
Rothbart and Korostelina devote the first half of the book to case studies: deportation of the Crimean Tatars from the Ukraine, genocide in Rwanda, the Lebanon War, and the war in Iraq. With the second half, they present new methodological tools for understanding different types of violent conflict and discuss the implications of these tools for conflict resolution.
"The authors convincingly dismiss conventional accounts—collateral damage is unavoidable, war is hell, etc.—and insist that the insights of identity studies can provide a more complete perspective on this issue."
—John Parry, Lewis & Clark Law School
Jacket photograph: © iStockphoto.com/Tina Rencelj