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No Way Out: Why Informal Politics Derails Western Counterinsurgency

Publikation: Bog/antologi/afhandling/rapportPh.d.-afhandlingForskning

Research on why local regimes derail Western-imposed administrative and political reforms during insurgency wars has so far mostly pointed at the regimes’ lack of incentives to cooperate due to their domestic situation. Drawing on the political settlement theory, this study contributes with the first fully developed theoretical framework that explains why regimes reject reforms during an insurgency crisis, even when reforms are advantageous to the regimes. The explanation emphasizes the need of regimes to use informal politics to accommodate domestic elites specialized in violence, who cannot benefit from formal administrative and political reforms. Because the regimes rely on those elites for survival, they are forced to use counterinsurgency strategies that go against Western-imposed reforms. The study evaluates the theoretical explanation applying a co-variational comparative case study design to four cases where the regimes had incentives to cooperate with Western powers, because they were existentially threatened by the insurgency.
Two case studies of the insurgency wars in Chad (2005-2010) and Mali (2011-2016) showed that in two states with extensive power distribution and strong elites specialized in violence, the regime mistrusted the regular forces. As protection, the regimes relied on praetorian units for coup-proofing, and delegated regular units to ineffective punishment of the insurgents. The regimes traded state authority to align pragmatically with domestic militias, co-opted insurgents, and accepted infringements on sovereignty by external powers. To handle the pressure from alignment with Western powers, the regimes simulated administrative and political reforms, but informally undermined them. In contrast, the case study of Algeria (1991-2000) showed that a regime in a state with lower power distribution and with few elites specialized in violence was less reliant on informal politics and was willing to rely on the security institutions, to regulate the use of militias, and to implement some Western-imposed reforms. The case study of Iraq (2011-2016) demonstrated that in a state with extensive power distribution, but with some of the elites specialized in violence accommodated through formal institutions, the regimes tailored their counterinsurgency strategies to suit the demands of the different elite factions.
Informal politics is not just a way of doing politics, but the linchpin that keeps the regimes in power in developmental states. For Western counterinsurgency strategies to be successful, Western powers need to conceive strategies that take the existing domestic distribution of power as a starting point and accept the role of informal politics.
Antal sider283
StatusUdgivet - 6 jun. 2018
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