Abstract: Comparative Study of the Spanish and Syrian Civil Wars

The Spanish civil war (1936-1939) and the current conflict in Syria (2011-present) are both cases in which states backed different domestic factions believing that the outcome of the civil wars would change the regional balance of power. This paper examines both conflicts and proposes three lessons for states to consider before intervening in a civil war.

First, established ruling regimes can be highly resilient to internal violence. Rebels and supporting states are unlikely to overthrow these governments easily. Second, states should judge how the outcome of a conflict will affect the regional balance of power. Intervention in a domestic conflict in an area where international competition is concentrated is likely to draw others into the civil war. Third, military support may produce an indecisive outcome or a stalemate. Alternatively, international diplomacy can significantly shape the nature and outcome of a conflict. Multilateral agreement on non-intervention in Spain was a key factor that ended the Spanish civil war relatively quickly compared to Syria.


  1. Wow, it’s so interesting that you’d compare these two events – I never would have thought about it. So your argument for why the Spanish Civil War ended quickly is that the various great powers agreed not to fight a proxy war in Spain?

    – Alec