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Coca, Clausewitz, and Colombia: The Inadequacy of Micro-level Studies in Explaining FARC Violence Against Civilians During the Colombian Civil War

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Tobias Bruce-Jones, M.L.R. Smith

Original languageEnglish
Early online date22 May 2019
Accepted/In press5 May 2019
E-pub ahead of print22 May 2019


King's Authors


Studies of micro-level violence make various claims to universality: namely, that there are patterns of violence in civil wars that are observable across time and space. The analysis of rebel violence against civilians constitutes one of the enduring themes of these studies. By evaluating the actions of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) during the latter half of the Colombian civil war, this paper demonstrates that the claims of micro-level studies are unable to account for FARC’s violence against civilians. In response, this study provides an alternative framework for understanding FARC’s violence. Informed by the theories of Carl von Clausewitz it is possible to comprehend the logic of FARC’s violence against civilians within a strategic framework that aimed to advance the movement’s political goals. However, it also illustrates that FARC was influenced heavily by its involvement in the drugs trade. The main findings are a) that whilst FARC’s acts of violence may have contained similarities to that of other drugs cartels FARC did not become a narco-guerrilla organization, b) the case of FARC demonstrates that ultimately there are no reproducible patterns in war, micro-level or otherwise.

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