Governing the Militia: Insurgent Command and Control in the Levant
Why do some insurgencies struggle to maintain a clear chain of command while other insurgencies do not? Although some conceptualize rebel groups as monolithic militant organizations, nearly all of these actors are formally led by political leaders who delegate the everyday tasks of fighting to others. Once these leaders create military forces, they must ensure that these forces are both submissive to their authority and effective in combat against their adversaries. Rebel groups have had varying levels of success in this endeavor. I find that the political or military affiliation of organizational interlocutors for militia financing—tax collectors, logistical suppliers, and representatives to external sponsors—impacts the opportunity and capacity for militia commanders to act outside the chain of command. When financial and support tasks are either explicitly or tacitly delegated to the militia, militia commanders lose incentives for cooperation with organizational leadership and face reduced opportunity costs associated with behavior that is either not officially sanctioned or explicitly prohibited by political leaders. I also find that group ideology, specifically whether this ideology inculcates deference to political authority, affects insurgent group task allocation and militia commander behavior. Communist and other leftist groups generally have ideological proscriptions against militia involvement outside of combat operations, making them less likely to assign non-military tasks to militia units and more likely to inculcate militia deference to party authority. In contrast, nationalist or fascist group ideologies grant a broad mandate to the militia, setting the stage for the growing political power of militia commanders. I test my theory using archival research and interviews from the Lebanese Civil War as well as statistical analyses from a global dataset of rebel groups.
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