Department of Conflict Resolution Studies Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences – Department of Conflict Resolution Studies

First Advisor

Jason J. Campbell

Second Advisor

Dustin Berna

Third Advisor

Judith McKay


Like an elephant, while it may be difficult to describe, corruption is generally not difficult to recognize when observed (Tanzi, 1998, p. 564). Many countries have been, or are currently typified by both lethal conflict and massive corruption. Historically, post-conflict development programs have imposed policies of zero corruption, yet they routinely fail. Initial research into “corruption” also identified significant ambiguities and self-contradiction with the definition of corruption, itself. This study used an Existential Phenomenological methodology with 8 participants from Iraq, Afghanistan, Uganda, South Sudan and Sudan to: 1) redefine and model corruption within a global construct, 2) examine the current doctrine mandating zero tolerance for corruption, and 3) examine the potential for tolerating moderate levels of corruption in favor of reduced lethal violence. Corrupt behavior is alleged by this research to include financial as well as non-financial mechanisms, and is motivated by Human, Institutional and Cultural Factors of Corruption. This research robustly redefines corruption, and develops new theories/models to better explain corrupt behavior. These include the Corruption Hierarchy, the Corruption Pyramid and the Universal Corruption Model. The research was inconclusive with respect to the tolerance of corruption mitigating lethal conflict, but confirmed strong support for policies of zero tolerance. In redefining corruption, many political, social and cultural norms currently exhibited by nation states, including the United States, are corrupt if/when properly classified. I’m desperate about my country. You’ve got to be strong in my country. If you are weak, they will take you. (Jeremy from Iraq).

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