How easy is it for rebel groups to purchase weapons and ammunition in the middle of a war? How quickly can commodities such as diamonds and cocoa be converted into cash to buy war supplies? And why does answering these questions matter for understanding civil wars? In What Rebels Want, Jennifer M. Hazen challenges the commonly held view that rebel groups can get what they want, when they want it, and when they most need it. Hazen's assessments of resource availability in the wars in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Cote d'Ivoire lead to a better understanding of rebel group capacity and options for war and war termination.
Resources entail more than just cash; they include various other economic, military, and political goods, including natural resources, arms and ammunition, safe haven, and diplomatic support. However, rebel groups rarely enjoy continuous access to resources throughout a conflict. Understanding fluctuations in fortune is central to identifying the options available to rebel groups and the reasons why a rebel group chooses to pursue war or peace. The stronger the group's capacity, the more options it possesses with respect to fighting a war. The chances for successful negotiations and the implementation of a peace agreement increase as the options of the rebel group narrow. Sustainable negotiated solutions are most likely, Hazen finds, when a rebel group views negotiations not as one of the solutions for obtaining what it wants, but as the only solution."