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Life and Death in CaptivityThe Abuse of Prisoners during War$
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Geoffrey P. R. Wallace

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780801453434

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801453434.001.0001

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Introduction

Introduction

Chapter:
(p.1) Introduction
Source:
Life and Death in Captivity
Author(s):

Geoffrey P. R. Wallace

Publisher:
Cornell University Press
DOI:10.7591/cornell/9780801453434.003.0001

This introductory chapter provides an overview of the book's main themes. This book aims to contribute to the growing literature seeking to explain the conduct of actors in the midst of armed conflict. Drawing from existing research on the broader study of wartime conduct, along with evidence from the treatment of prisoners across more than a century of interstate warfare, it argues that two sets of factors are the primary drivers behind violence against captured combatants. First, within the warring parties themselves, a country's regime type generates several internal incentives that influence how a captor chooses to treat captured enemy combatants. Democracies are typically more restrained about resorting to greater levels of abuse against their captives. The reasons for this democratic benevolence, however, are rooted less in liberal norms of tolerance and nonviolence than in institutionally driven considerations resulting from democratic leaders' accountability to their publics. The second set of factors turns instead to external incentives resulting from the nature of the conflict itself. The severity of fighting, especially in conflicts that get bogged down into long and costly wars of attrition, shapes how belligerents choose to treat their prisoners.

Keywords:   armed conflict, wartime prisoners, wartime conduct, prisoner treatment, captured combatants, interstate warfare, enemy combatants

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