Spoilers of Peace (SOP) Project

A Research Initiative on Intra-state Conflict and the Dilemmas of Peacemaking

Project Leaders: Bruce Dayton, Associate Director, Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs and Miriam F. Elman, Associate Professor, Political Science 

The successful de-escalation of violent intrastate conflicts often requires efforts to accommodate, defeat, sideline, or undermine those that adopt ‘spoiling’ tactics during the course of peacebuilding initiatives. Spoiling behavior includes the use of coercive tactics in an effort to strengthen the hand of hardliners on each side of the conflict. By staging spectacular attacks, assassinations, or other forms of violent expression, spoilers often succeed in outraging citizens, sidelining moderates, and further exacerbating the insecurity, fear, and hatred felt on both sides of the conflict. Leaders that succumb to spoiling behavior often hold the representative of the group they are negotiating with responsible for the actions of its violent affiliates. Alternately, spoiling tactics may also include the use nonviolent methods - such as pulling out of, or refusing to join, a government coalition committed to peacemaking, thereby prolonging conflict even when the majority of the population prefers peace.


Spoilers of Peace and the Dilemmas of Conflict ResolutionSpoilers of Peace and the Dilemmas of Conflict Resolution (PDF)  (2012), edited by Prof. Miriam Fendius Elman and Dr. Nimrod Goren. This joint publication was produced through a partnership between Mitvim and the Program for the Advancement of Research on Conflict and Collaboration at Syracuse University. It is based on a workshop conducted on July 23, 2012, in cooperation with the U.S. Embassy, Tel Aviv, and includes contributions by Prof. Miriam F. Elman, Attorney Gilead Sher, and Prof. Daniel Bar-Tal.


Democracy and Conflict Resolution Democracy and Conflict Resolution: The Dilemmas of Israel’s Peacemaking (forthcoming from Syracuse University Press), edited by Miriam Fendius Elman, Oded Haklai, and Hendrik Spruyt. Using the contested theory of "democratic peace" as a foundational framework, the contributors explore the effects of a variety of internal influences on Israeli government practices related to Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking: electoral systems; political parties; identity; leadership; and social movements.

Spoilers of Peace Project Bibliography (PDF)

Case Studies

In 2009-2010, faculty and graduate student researchers met monthly to discuss specific readings on spoiler-related topics. Each student in the group submitted a case study on an instance of spoiling behavior that has occurred during a specific phase of a particular peace process. In writing their case studies, students used a structure-focused comparison template to facilitate cross-case comparison.

Speaker Series

The Spoilers of Peace project funded a visiting speaker series from 2009 to 2011. Each visitor gave a public talk and interacted with students and faculty in the group about spoiling dynamics.

  • Intervening to Build Peace? Peacebuilding Strategies and Violence in War-to-Peace Transitions,” presented by Marie-Joëlle Zahar, Associate Professor of Political Science Research Director, Francophone Peace Operations Network Centre for International Research and Studies for International Research and Studies Université de Montréal. October 15, 2009.
  • “Roles and Perspectives of Non-State Armed Groups in Post-War Security Transition,” presented by Veronica Dudouet, Senior Researcher at Berghof Conflict Research. October 26, 2009. This lecture was funded and co-sponsored by the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism.
  • Negotiate or ‘Let it Burn’? Deconstructing Arguments Regarding the ‘Best’ Way to End Civil Wars,” presented by Caroline A. Hartzell, Professor of Political Science at Gettysburg College. November 10, 2009.
  • “Involvement and Institutionalization of a Culture of Conflict,” Daniel Bar-Tal, the Branco Weiss Professor of Research in Child Development and Education at Tel Aviv University. February 10, 2011.