Devolution from above : the origins and persistence of state-sponsored militias
Ahram, Ariel I.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Georgetown University, 2008.; Includes bibliographical references. This study examines the proliferation of militias and other armed groups who act in conjunction with, but outside, the state's military apparatus. Groups like the Sudanese janjaweed, the Serbian paramilitaries, and Colombian self-defense forces figure prominently in a host of contemporary conflicts in the developing world. They are widely identified as banes of human and international security and harbingers of anarchy. Their very existence violates the Weberian ideal-type of the state as a monopolist over the use of force. I argue, however, that reliance on non-state violence-wielders has been a common form of military development and is not necessarily associated with state failure. I use small, medium, and large-n methods to develop a theory of how and why developing states rely on non-state actors to implement coercion. Through historical case studies of Indonesia and Iraq, regional comparisons of Southeast Asia and the Middle East, and statistical analysis across eighty-five cases, I draw the following conclusions: First, decolonization was a critical juncture that led states to adopt different techniques for organizing coercion. Specifically, revolutionary states tended to decentralize coercive power by assimilating former revolutionary fighters into informal local militias. In contrast, non-revolutionary states directly inherited European-trained armies with more conventional, centralized organizational patterns that placed the use of force firmly in state hands. Second, post-colonial conditions of regional competition compelled some states to continually upgrade and centralize coercive power, while states facing weaker external challengers could co-opt militias for counterinsurgency without needing direct control over coercion. By exploring the dynamics of state-militia relations and the historical and structural factors that inhibit or enable the use of state-sponsored militias, I highlight the futility of many efforts at state reconstruction aimed to regain the illusory monopoly over coercion. The emergence of both centralized and decentralized institutions of violence are responses to the international system and can scarcely be addressed through piecemeal efforts at the country level. Rather, I suggest that violence devolution may alleviate, rather than cause, some of the dangers commonly attributed to frail or failed states.
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