Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science

First Advisor

Aysegul Aydin

Second Advisor

David Bearce

Third Advisor

Lucy Chester

Fourth Advisor

Amy Liu,

Fifth Advisor

Jaroslav Tir,


How can the global illicit economy shape conflict patterns and outcomes during civil war? My dissertation argues that when rebel groups make a decision to rely on transnational criminal financing it creates incentives that not only lengthen conflicts, but also increases the probability of conflict recurrence. After an introductory chapter that establishes the puzzle of rebel financing and conflict outcomes, I present a theory (Chapter 2) which argues that rebel groups adopt transnational criminal financing to fund violent challenges as a way to increase their autonomy while also securing large amounts of rents that makes them a viable organization. The combination of autonomy and high rents inspire rebel groups to fight longer conflicts, while also contributing to the conditions for new conflicts to emerge. To test this theory, I introduce new data (Chapter 3) of the financial sources of all violent non-state actors between the years 1946-2011 and find that the presence of crime significantly lengthens conflict duration. To better understand the underlying causal mechanisms of crime and conflict duration, I then use a within-case analysis of the civil war in Cambodia (Chapter 4), which elucidates the micro-foundations of conflict. From there, I use the econometric data of rebel group financial sources to test (Chapter 5) whether transnational criminal financing increases the probability of conflict recurrence, finding that the financial incentives of crime increase the probability of new intrastate conflicts. These findings are then tested further by conducting a subnational analysis of post-war society in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Chapter 6) to determine whether the location of transnational criminal networks predicts where new conflicts will emerge. The combination of both cross-national and disaggregated local data emphasizes the strong relationship between transnational criminal financing and the many difficulties facing rebuilding post-war societies. The project results in two major contributions. First, it provides the first comprehensive dataset on how rebel groups finance their conflicts, which allows for more insight into the decision-making process of violent non-state actors. Additionally, it highlights the unique problems that transnational crime can play in preventing the cessation of intrastate conflict hostilities or the barriers that crime makes in post-war reconciliation.